CAIR-NJ Celebrates the Signing of Muslim Heritage Month Resolution into Law

CAIR-NJ Celebrates the Signing of Muslim Heritage Month Resolution into Law

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 04/29/2023) The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today celebrated the signing of the Muslim Heritage Month Resolution into law by New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy. 

The signing ceremony took place during the Governor and First Lady’s Eid celebration at Drumthwacket, the Governor’s residence in Princeton, and was attended by members of the New Jersey Muslim community. 

The Muslim Heritage Month Resolution designates January of each year as “Muslim Heritage Month” in New Jersey and calls upon local government agencies and organizations to observe this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and educational programs that pay homage to the growing American Muslim community.  

SEE: Governor Murphy Signs Joint Resolution Establishing “Muslim Heritage Month” in New Jersey

SEE: CAIR-NJ Celebrates the Assembly’s Historic Vote in Support of Muslim Heritage Month Resolution

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:  

“This is a historic moment. For too long, we’ve seen damaging and irresponsible depictions of Muslims. These narratives have tangible consequences, but now, we will be seeing the counter and, hopefully soon, prevailing narrative: One that highlights, celebrates, and acknowledges the American Muslim community in New Jersey.   

“We are happy to take this small step towards pushing back against anti-Muslim bigotry, and we are excited for what’s to come. We also want to thank the Governor and his administration for their support of this resolution.” 

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Government Affairs Manager Madina P. Ouedraogo said:  

New Jersey’s Muslim community has long awaited this moment, when the Muslim heritage Month Resolution is passed and signed into law. Today, the Garden State is proudly celebrating its rich religious and cultural diversity.  

“American Muslims have and continue to be a pivotal foundation of this state, but they have long been stigmatized, marginalized, and underappreciated. This new law signals a new tide.” 

In a statement, Council of Imams in New Jersey Convener Imam Wahy-ud Deen Shareef said:  

“The history of Islam and the growing Muslim Community in New Jersey is rich in the lessons of how the human spirit struggles against social, political, and economic adversity to successfully establish a model life working to serve G_d and bring forward a model human society.   

“The late Muslim American Leader, Imam W. Deen Mohammed, encouraged Muslims to establish the best spiritual and social life possible reflecting the high morals and ethics taught by the Qur’an, G_d’s Word, and exhibit in practice the model traditional life of Muhammad the Prophet (prayers and Peace be upon him). This month acknowledges and celebrates these honorable objectives for Muslims and all citizens of New Jersey.”  

In a statement, NJ Muslim Parent Advocate Jessica Berrocal said:  

“Celebrating Muslim Heritage Month in January is a step towards building stronger, more inclusive communities that celebrate diversity and reject hatred and bigotry. This is a significant step towards promoting tolerance and acceptance among communities, and it serves as a reminder that discrimination and hate have no place in New Jersey.  

“Muslim Heritage Month not only recognizes the rich cultural contributions of Muslims, but also creates an opportunity for us to deepen our understanding of the religion, customs, and traditions. It is crucial that we protect the rights of Muslim children and ensure that they can express their religious identity without fear of discrimination or bullying. By advocating for inclusivity and raising awareness around Muslim Heritage Month, we can foster a more welcoming and accepting environment for all children in wholesome.” 

New Jersey has the highest percentage of Muslim residents in the U.S., at 3.5 percent, according to 2020 US Religion Census and the Association of Religion Data Archives.  Last month, two Muslim women who wear hijab, the Honorable Nadia Kahf and Dalya Youssef, were appointed to the New Jersey Superior Court bench. New Jersey also leads the way for local representation, with over 40 Muslim elected officials. The state elected the first ever Muslims to the New Jersey State Legislature, Sadaf Jaffer (LD-16) and Shama Haidar (LD-37), last year. 

Still, however, anti-Muslim incidents are on the rise. CAIR-NJ received over 150 calls for help in 2022 alone. This resolution seeks to push back against anti-Muslim bigotry by celebrating American Muslims and shedding a positive light on the community. 

The Assembly joint resolution (AJR194)  is sponsored by Assemblywoman McKnight (LD-31), Assemblywoman Speight (LD-29) and Assemblywoman Chaparro (LD-33) and co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Jaffer (LD-16), Assemblyman Stanley (LD-18), Assemblywoman Haider (LD-37), Assemblyman DePhillips (LD-40), Assemblyman Atkins (LD-20),  Assemblywoman Park (LD-37), Assemblywoman Jasey (LD-27), Assemblywoman Quijano (LD20), Assemblyman Conaway (LD-7), Assemblywoman Reynolds-Jackson (LD-15) and Assemblywoman Sumter (LD-35)  

The Senate joint resolution (SJR105) is sponsored by Senator Pennacchio (LD-26) and Senator Stack (LD-33) and co-sponsored by Senator Bucco (LD-25), Senator Durr (LD-3), Senator Turner (LD-15), Senator Gopal (LD-11), Senator Greenstein (LD-14), Senator Lagana (LD-38), Senator Pou (LD-35), Senator Zwicker (LD-16).  

BACKGROUND:

Muslim Heritage Month started with a vision from the Honorable Imam Warith Deen Mohammed. The first Muslims to observe Ramadan in America were enslaved Africans who carried their faith with them and used it as a way to stay connected to their identities that were being brutally stripped from them while in bondage. It was their descendants, Black and African American Muslims, who would go on to later lay the foundation for the modern day American Muslim experience. The Honorable Imam Mohammed sought to make sure that this history is acknowledged and celebrated. 

  

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims. 

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CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592

CAIR-NJ Encourages Federal, State, and Local Elected Officials to Offer Eid ul-Fitr Holiday Greetings 

CAIR-NJ Encourages Federal, State, and Local Elected Officials to Offer Eid ul-Fitr Holiday Greetings 

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 04/20/2023) The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ)today encouraged New Jersey federal, state, and local elected officials to offer holiday greetings and statements commemorating Eid ul-Fitr, one of two major Islamic holidays.  

Eid ul-Fitr commemorates the end of Ramadan, a month marked by dawn to dusk fasting and increased worship and occurs on the first day of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar and .  This year, Eid will be on Friday, April 21st.   

CAIR National released a template message to elected officials requesting the introduction of local and state resolutions or proclamations marking the month of Ramadan and Eid –ul-Fitr. CAIR also provided sample resolutions for elected officials.    

SEE: Template Message To Elected Officals  

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Government Affairs Manager Madina P. Ouedraogo, MPA-PNP said:     

“As the holy month of Ramadan concludes, and Eid-ul Fitr commences, we encourage all New Jersey federal, state, and local elected officials to acknowledge and honor this sacred time for their New Jersey Muslim constituency by offering official statements, digital greetings, resolutions, or proclamations.   

“New Jersey elected officials are in a unique position. Unlike other states across the U.S., New Jersey has the most Muslim per capita. Approximately 400,000 adults in New Jersey are Muslim. 

“We hope that all elected officials within New Jersey will highlight the sacred month of Ramadan and the culminating holiday, Eid ul-Fitr, with inclusive and welcoming gestures and remarks.”  

 

BACKGROUND:    

New Jersey has the highest percentage of Muslim residents in the U.S., at 3.5 percent, according to 2020 US Religion Census and the Association of Religion Data Archives.   

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Fasting is the fourth pillar of Islam. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, and other world pleasures from dawn to dusk, and engage in a committed worship of Allah (God). The devotional act of fasting is observed by thousands of able-bodied Muslims statewide.  

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims. 

 

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CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592 

 

CAIR-NJ Welcomes NJ Dept. of Corrections’ Policy Allowing Religious Head Coverings for Publicly Posted Photographs 

CAIR-NJ Welcomes NJ Dept. of Corrections Policy Allowing Religious Head Coverings for Publicly Posted Photographs 

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 04/17/2023) The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today welcomed the New Jersey Department of Corrections’ (NJDOC) new policy allowing incarcerated people to wear religious head coverings for intake mugshots that are publicly available.

The department’s decision comes after almost two years of advocacy spearheaded by CAIR-NJ civil rights attorney, Nina Rossi, Esq.  

The new policy, which is applicable only to New Jersey prisons, states: “Incarcerated persons may request to wear their religious head coverings for intake photographs that are publicly available.” 

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:

“In the past, Muslim women were being asked to remove their hijabs prior to their intake photo. That’s countless Muslim women whose basic civil rights were potentially violated, but thanks to this new policy, that should no longer be the case.

“Muslim women who wear hijab (head scarves) or niqab (face veils) now have the option to request a ‘Photo Religious Exemption’ form, which would allow them to wear their hijab or niqab in any publicly posted photos.”

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Civil Rights Attorney Nina Rossi said:

“Asking a Muslim woman to remove her hijab for her intake photo is likely a violation of her First Amendment rights as well as the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Many Muslim women have expressed that they feel naked when not wearing their hijab. No woman should experience this sort of humiliation. 

“This policy has been a long time in the making — we first filed an OPRA request in July 2021 — and it is likely the first of its kind in New Jersey. It is both necessary and long-awaited accommodation.

“We commend the New Jersey Department of Corrections for enacting and enforcing this policy. But we continue to call on county jails to do the same.”

 

BACKGROUND:

In July 2021, CAIR-NJ filed an OPRA request asking about the NJDOC’s policies regarding intake photos. CAIR-NJ continued to outreach to NJDOC and in September 2021, NJDOC agreed to revisit their policy.    

In January 2023, NJDOC produced the current version.   

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.         

 

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CONTACT:  CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592 

CAIR-NJ Joins NJ Coalition Group in Condemning Israel’s Attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque Worshippers, Demands Action from Elected Officials

CAIR-NJ Joins NJ Coalition Group in Condemning Israel’s Attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque Worshippers, Demands Action from Elected Officials

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 04/12/2023)  The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today joined a broad coalition group of New Jersey-based Muslim organizations in condemning Israel’s attacks on worshippers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and demanding action from New Jersey elected officials.

In part, the coalition group’s letter calls on New Jersey elected officials, including Senators Booker and Menendez and Governor Murphy, to condemn the attacks:     

“We call on all of New Jersey’s Federal Elected officials, including Senators Booker and Menendez and our entire congressional delegation as well as Governor Murphy to condemn these violent attacks.  

“We ask them to hold the Israeli Government accountable for its actions and to demand an end to the aggression against Palestinian worshippers at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound. We further ask them to demand that both Muslim and Christian Palestinians in and around Jerusalem, which has been their cultural and spiritual center for nearly two millennia, be given the true freedom of worship at their respective holy places.” 

SEE: NJ Muslim Coalition Letter

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:

“Al-Aqsa is one of the holiest Islamic sites, and what happens in al-Aqsa affects Muslims around the world, including in New Jersey, where we have the highest number of Muslims per capita across the U.S. 

“New Jersey is also home to a sizeable Palestinian population. Journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed by Israeli forces last May while wearing her press gear, was a New Jersey resident herself.

“The videos released on social media are especially disturbing. Israel’s attacks on Palestinian worshipers — during the month of Ramadan, no less— should be condemned by anyone who believes in human rights. We join coalition groups in calling on the Governor and New Jersey elected officials to condemn the heinous attacks and hold Israel accountable to international law.” 

Israeli police and settlers stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound in East Jerusalem twice last Wednesday and arrested hundreds of Palestinians, despite condemnations by the UN.

During the first incident on Wednesday morning, footage showed Israeli officers striking screaming people with batons inside the al-Aqsa mosque. 

SEE: Israeli police storm al-Aqsa mosque for the second time on Wednesday

SEE: UN expert condemns brutal attacks on Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque

 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.         

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CONTACT:  CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592 

CAIR-NJ Reiterates Call for Hate Crime Probe After Word ‘Allah’ on Paterson School Sign is Vandalized for Second Time

CAIR-NJ Reiterates Call for Hate Crime After Word ‘Allah’ on Paterson School Sign is Vandalized for Second Time

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 04/10/2023) The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today reiterated its call for a hate crime probe after the word “Allah” on a south Paterson school sign was vandalized for the second time since Friday. 

The word “Allah” in Dr. Hani Awadallah’s name on the sign in front of the Dr. Hani Awadallah School in south Paterson was smeared with feces. [NOTE: “Allah” is the Arabic word for “God.”]   

The first incident occurred on Friday, April 7, 2023. A suspect has been arrested and remains in police custody. 

SEE: Vandalized Sign on 04/10/2023

SEE: CAIR-NJ Calls for Hate Crime Probe of Vandalism of Word ‘Allah’ on Paterson School Sign

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:   

“While we are still learning the facts of the incidents, we have reason to believe that the suspect acted on an anti-Muslim impulse due to his social media postings, in which he posted the defecated sign as well as a desecrated Qur’an. 

“In a separate post, the suspect wrote, ‘Palestinians are still misguided! End their own misery there.’   

“We condemn the incidents in the strongest terms and continue to call for a hate crime probe.” 

 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

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CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmeddsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592

CAIR-NJ Wishes Imam Elnakib Speedy Recovery, Commends Masjid Omar Community for Swift Response to Stabbing Attack

CAIR-NJ Wishes Imam Elnakib Speedy Recovery, Commends Masjid Omar Community for Swift Response to Stabbing Attack

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 04/10/2023) — The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today commended the Masjid Omar community for responding quickly to a stabbing attack on Imam Sayed Elnakib and prayed that the imam has a full and speedy recovery.

On Sunday morning, during pre-dawn prayers at Masjid Omar in Paterson, a man walked between worshippers and stabbed Imam Sayed Elnakib at least twice in his back.

The man was immediately held by community members until police arrived at the scene. He has been charged with attempted murder and two different counts of weapons possession.

SEE: Video: CAIR-NJ Responds to Stabbing of Imam During Prayers

SEE: Imam Is Stabbed While Leading Prayers at New Jersey Mosque

CAIR-NJ also urged the local Muslim community and Islamic institutions nationwide to take extra security precautions by using advice offered in CAIR’s booklet, “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.

 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.            

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CONTACT: CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592

CAIR-NJ Calls for Hate Crime Probe of Vandalism of Word ‘Allah’ on Paterson School Sign

CAIR-NJ Calls for Hate Crime Probe of Vandalism of Word ‘Allah’ on Paterson School Sign

(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 04/08/2023) — The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today called for a hate crime investigation into vandalism targeting the Dr. Hani Awadallah public school in Paterson.   

The word “Allah” in Dr. Hani Awadallah’s name on the sign in front of the school was defaced with an unknown dark substance. 

[NOTE: “Allah” is the Arabic word for “God.”] 

SEE: Vandalized School Sign

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:     

“While the circumstances surrounding the incident remain unknown, the smearing of the word ‘Allah’ in Dr. Awadallah’s name is apparently intentional, with the remainder of the sign left untouched, making an immediate hate crime investigation into this incident necessary.     

“This incident is one of many throughout New Jersey. In 2022, we’ve recorded the highest number of complaints of anti-Muslim prejudices, at 152. Over the years, our records have shown that complaints increase around and during Ramadan, in part because Muslims are more visible and take up more space — physically and metaphorically.     

“This upward trend of complaints of anti-Muslim incidents is wholly unacceptable. Local interfaith leaders and community members in Paterson have worked hard to make the city welcoming and inclusive of people of all faiths, and we must come together to show that behaviors like this are not only unwelcome but condemnable. We call on elected officials, local leaders and allies of the Muslim community to stand firmly against this apparently bias-motivated incident and make clear that this sort of bigotry has no home here and will never succeed.”    

Maksut noted that Paterson is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the state of New Jersey and that New Jersey has more Muslims per capita than any other state in the nation.      

He urged the local Muslim community and Islamic institutions nationwide to take extra security precautions by using advice offered in CAIR’s booklet, “Best Practices for Mosque and Community Safety.

Last year, CAIR released a report, titled “Still Suspect: The Impact of Structural Islamophobia,” documenting more than 6,720 complaints to CAIR offices nationwide involving a range of issues including immigration and travel, workplace discrimination, denial of public accommodations, law enforcement and government overreach, hate and bias incidents, incarceree rights, school incidents, anti-BDS/free speech, among other reported issues.

 

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.     

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CONTACT:CAIR-NJ Communications Manager Dina Sayedahmed, dsayedahmed@cair.com, 551-221-5592