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LI Muslims shocked by travel ban stage protest in Selden

Days after President Donald Trump's executive order prohibiting entry of non-U.S. citizens from seven Islamic-majority countries, Muslims and allies on Long Island gathered by the Selden mosque on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, calling for communities to stand together to prevent fear from being sown in the nation. Credit: James Carbone

Days after President Donald Trump’s executive order prohibiting entry of non-U.S. citizens from seven Islamic-majority countries, Muslims on Long Island say that it is more important than ever for communities to stand together to prevent fear from being sown.

“How do we forget our pledge? One nation under God,” said Isma Chaudhry, president of the Westbury-based Islamic Center of Long Island. “We as American Muslims have to come out and support the basis, the foundation of the United States.”

Members of the Muslim community said Sunday that they are shocked and saddened by the executive order, an action they said did not represent the America to which they immigrated.

“I came to this country on my own wish and will because I thought that this was a better country, the country for me to make my home,” said Habeeb Ahmed, president-elect of the Islamic Center. “You feel like you’re not in America anymore.”

Long Island residents said showing solidarity and reaching out across religious, ethnic and racial lines is imperative. More than 200 people gathered in Selden on Sunday for a vigil in support of Muslim immigrants.

Lake Grove resident Ruth Cohen, 78, a former Kennedy Airport immigration officer, said she organized the event because she felt heartsick about the order.

“It’s not enough to say ‘Gee, what a shame,’ ” Cohen said. “You have to stand up, you have to put your body out there on the line.”

Targeting immigrants based on religion isn’t a new practice, Chaudhry said, speaking of the country’s previous rejection of hundreds of German Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. The refugees traveling to the United States today are also fleeing for their lives, Chaudhry said.

On Sunday, the Islamic Center’s religious school operated as usual, with children running through the mosque’s halls. But parents said that their children are scared, fearful of anti-Muslim bullying.

Hicksville resident Imran Zaidi, 48, said his young family has discussed the election and its aftermath. He has warned his children that while they might experience heightened bullying at school, that they should not retaliate.

“It is important to discuss it [the travel ban] with them so that they are aware,” Zaidi said. “Now, things are changing, we have to be cautious.”

The outpouring of support from other residents and religious groups represented the beauty of America, Islamic Center officials said.

“All communities should stand right next to each other. We have to make a pledge to be each other’s keepers,” Chaudhry said. “This is the time in history that if we don’t do good by ourselves and our country, we will all be responsible to leading the country to a place where we don’t want to look back and say we were quiet.”


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