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Activists hold vigil outside Selden mosque in support of Muslims

Members of LI Activists stand on Park Hill

Members of LI Activists stand on Park Hill Drive during a silent protest vigil at the Selden Mosque in Selden on Sunday, May 28, 2017. Credit: Steven Ryan

A group of human rights activists marked Memorial Day weekend yesterday by holding a vigil outside a Selden mosque to support Long Island’s Muslim community — and to protest the Trump administration’s attempts to bar residents of six Islamic-majority countries from traveling to the United States.

A dozen protesters stood across the street from the Islamic Association of Long Island, holding American flags and signs, including one that said, “We stand together with our Muslim neighbors.”

“The reason we have flags today is because there is nothing more American than welcoming people from other faiths and other countries with open arms,” said Michael Kandel, 75, of Port Jefferson Station. “That’s what being an American has always been about. Every one of us comes from immigrant stock.”

Long Island Activists for Democracy has held monthly vigils promoting solidarity with Muslims and other immigrant groups across the street from the mosque since President Donald Trump was elected in November, according to organizer Ruth Cohen, 78, of Lake Grove.

Cohen said she’s disturbed that the president “kowtowed” to leaders in Saudi Arabia, which she said practices an extreme version of Islam, during his recent trip to the Middle East, while his Justice Department attempted to persuade a federal appeals court to allow it to bar travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that blocks the administration from cutting off visas for people from those nations.

“We don’t hate Muslims, we respect them,” Cohen said. “We are opposed to Trump’s demonizing of people.”

Many members of the congregation had participated in dawn prayers for Ramadan, which began Saturday, and had left long before Cohen and her group arrived.

But Tehmina Tirmizi, 41, of Farmingville, said she has been learning about social justice while pursuing her graduate degree in social work at Stony Brook University and felt she had a duty to join the protest across the street from her mosque. She attended the vigil with her mother-in-law, Shakeera Tirmizi, 68.

“If we don’t do anything, we feed into the hate,” Tirmizi said.

Despite tensions between Israel and its Muslim neighbors, Tehmina Tirmizi said she loves that Cohen — a Jewish woman — continues to stand by Long Island’s Muslim community.

Tirmizi said she is organizing an event that will be held later this year called “Abraham’s Table,” which will celebrate the common threads among Islam, Judaism and Christianity.

“We have this common lineage, we have so much more in common than we have things that divide us,” Tirmizi said.

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