More than 200 American Muslims — many from Long Island — rallied in Times Square on Saturday to condemn terrorism in the name of religion, chanting “Islam means peace.”
Those at the rally, including a couple of doctors and a firefighter, spoke out against the San Bernardino, California, shooting massacre and recent inflammatory statements about Muslims by some Republican presidential candidates.
“These terrorists do not represent Islam or Muslims,” said one of the organizers, Ali A. Mirza, 56, who owns a business in Elmont.
“We stand in solidarity with all Americans — not only just Americans, but all the people of the world who are victims of terrorism,” he said.
The group walked along Seventh Avenue between W. 41st and W. 42nd streets, carrying a large American flag and signs declaring “ISIS IS NOT ISLAM” and “AMERICAN MUSLIMS LOVE AMERICA.”
Safia Afaq, 24, a medical student in New York City who grew up in Dix Hills, said she is Muslim, but “American-born first.”
A man who declined to give his name briefly heckled the group, yelling “Trump for President!” before leaving.
Harris Ansari, 18, of Huntington, said it’s important for people to see Muslims rallying for peace and educating people about the true nature of Islam.
“At least you know that we’re trying to make a difference,” said Ansari, a Hunter College freshman. “One movement isn’t going to change everything, but it’s a steppingstone.”
Saeed Cheema, 26, a Floral Park volunteer firefighter, said he wore his fire turnout gear to the rally “to show that I’m part of society, that I give back.”
He said American Muslims hold many professions, even political office, but their voices often aren’t heard.
Another organizer of the rally, Abbas Dastgir, 27, of Kings Park, said Muslims in this country believe in “coexistence.”
“We’re living in America,” he said. “This is our fight [against terrorism], just as much as anyone else that lives in America.”