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Community leaders condemn poster tying Muslim congresswoman to 9/11

Imam Ibad Wali, director of the Hillside Islamic

Imam Ibad Wali, director of the Hillside Islamic Center, speaks Tuesday at the event at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. Credit: Howard Schnapp

An interfaith coalition came together Tuesday with politicians and community leaders to denounce a poster linking one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress with the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

More than 100 people gathered at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury to criticize the poster of freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, whose image — wearing a hijab — was shown under a photo of a burning World Trade Center.

The poster was displayed Friday at the House of Delegates Chamber in West Virginia during an event sponsored by the state’s Republican Party.

“They are connecting religious garb with the horrific crimes of 9/11,” Dr.  Isma Chaudhry, chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Islamic Center, said Tuesday.

The event in Westbury was aimed at allowing community organizers “and the political leaders and the interfaith partners to stand with us to denounce Islamophobia and bigotry and anti-Semitism and hatred and reaffirm that we as one community stand against all these negative sentiments.” 

Robert Socolof, Long Island director of the American Jewish Committee, said, “There is no place in America for that kind of fearmongering, Islamophobic attack.”

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said it is “imperative that we not be silent when hateful incidences occur. Silence is a form of acquiescence, and history has taught us the consequences of silence when hate rears its ugly head.”

Besides Muslims, the event included Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs, Chaudhry said.

The multifaith support “was quite heartwarming for us,” said Habeeb Ahmed, another leader of the Westbury mosque.

The poster in West Virginia had the words “ 'Never forget' — you said” above the photo of the Twin Towers, and the words, “I am the proof — you have forgotten” over the image of Omar, a refugee from Somalia who immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was young.

Some GOP leaders in West Virginia tried to distance themselves from the poster.

Omar, a Democrat, was rebuked last month by both Democrats and conservatives after a tweet she made about the influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups.

Socolof said the American Jewish Committee condemned Omar’s tweet, which some called anti-Semitic, but defended her right to free speech and religious freedom.

Chaudhry said she fears the poster incident “is going to bring in a new wave of Islamophobia and racism. It’s become difficult [for Muslim women] to wear a headscarf, for them to go out.”

She added: “It is about time that Islamophobia is recognized as something that is … dividing our community.”

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