CAIR-NJ Calls on State Senate to Oppose Bills Designed to Curtail Free Speech

(Newark, NJ, 03/18/2024) — The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today called on the New Jersey Senate to oppose Senate Bill 1292 and Senate Bill 2937, both of which are designed to redefine antisemitism using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition.

In an open letter addressed to the New Jersey Senate, CAIR-NJ wrote, “While we appreciate and support efforts to combat hate and discrimination, these bills carry consequences that would suppress legitimate advocacy and free speech.”

SEE: Oppose Bill S1292 and S2937 to Protect Free Speech 

Adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism would conflate antisemitism with anti-Zionism, the letter states, and stifles legitimate discourse. The letter goes on to say that such a definition “would unfairly silence Palestinian advocacy and empowerment” and “would tarnish New Jersey’s reputation in support of free speech and diversity.”

SEE: International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance muzzles critics of Israel

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

The Muslim community well understands the tangible, harmful effects of discrimination and bigotry and the record will show that we have long stood against all forms of bigotry here in New Jersey. 

In adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism, the New Jersey senate will put the Muslim and Palestinian communities here in New Jersey in direct harm’s way, at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bigotry are on a steep rise. These bills — S1292 and S2937 — protect and prioritize the interests of a foreign entity over the First Amendment rights of Americans and we cannot stand for that.

In statement, CAIR-NJ Civil Rights Attorney Ayah Zaki said:   

“As Americans, we cherish our First Amendment rights. 

“Bills S1292 and S2937 risk undermining free speech by discouraging open dialogue. We can combat antisemitism without stifling dissenting voices against Israel, and the New Jersey Senate should reject these bills because they violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

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, 908-668-5900 ext. 103, 551-221-5592