New Yorkers of different beliefs came together in Times Square yesterday to condemn a Long Island congressman’s hearing this week on the “radicalization” of American Muslims, which they fear will incite Islamophobia.
The slogan – “Today I am a Muslim, too” – was splashed across placards at the rally, which had “Entourage” star Adrian Grenier and hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons in attendance.
“We’re bigger than Charlie Sheen,” said a pumped-up Simmons.
About 1,000 people were at the rally according to organizers, but that number couldn’t be confirmed.
“I am a Muslim, but I love this country as much as any Christian or Jew loves his country,” said Imam Shamsi Ali, of the New York Islamic Cultural Center.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) was on national TV yesterday defending the need to learn more about radicals trying to make inroads within the U.S. Muslim community.
“The overwhelming [majority] of Muslims are good Americans, but the threat is coming from their community and we have to find out why, how it is being done and how to stop it,” King told Fox News.
Attendees at the rally had another message besides one of solidarity: Muslims are not the enemy.
“Our common enemy are extremists, whether they’re Muslim extremists or Evangelical extremists,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who led the controversial proposal last year to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero.
King’s hearing “should be about terrorism … and how have people become radicalized,” Rauf added.
A spokesman for King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told amNewYork that the congressman wants “more cooperation from the Muslim community in countering radicalization of its people.”
Yesterday’s Times Square protest was met by a counter-protest of six people who were affiliated with King supporters.
“They [Muslim Americans] won’t say that radicalization is wrong,” said Joan Romanelli, an East Side resident.
But Lena Albibi, 25, of Midtown, was encouraged to attend the interfaith rally after reading Simmons’ Twitter message. She said she was in tears after watching protestors in California hold a “pro-America” rally last month in the face of an Islamic group’s fundraising event.
“After seeing so much hate,” Albibi said, “it’s nice to see so much love.”