NJ: MUSLIM MEETING BUILDS BRIDGES DESPITE THREAT
The annual brunch sponsored by the American Muslim Union was delayed by 45 minutes because of a bomb threat. Weeks earlier, a key speaker -- a Muslim-Canadian scholar -- couldn't get his visa.
Ironically, these incidents coincided with the event titled "Peace, Justice and Liberty for All," held at the Teaneck Marriott at Glenpointe. Symbolically, they represent what the community is trying to overcome: the misperception that American Muslims are a fringe community, potentially sympathetic to terrorist factions.
So members reach out to community leaders, clergymen of many faiths and politicians on the local and state levels at gatherings such as this. The community maintains it is determined to be accepted, and members will accomplish their goal slowly but steadily, one handshake, one interfaith brunch, one political foray at a time.
"There's still a long way to go," said Waheed Khalid, the Bergen County chairman of the American Muslim Union. "Unfortunately, our community is not doing enough. How would the normal American know what we are and what we are not?"
Still, the community's progress is evident by the day's roster, which included some of New Jersey's political heavy hitters: Governor Corzine, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and Attorney General Stuart Rabner.
Local politicians included Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Teaneck, and Assembly members Valerie Huttle and Gordon Johnson, both Englewood Democrats.
Those who spoke extended a hand to the community, saying they're doing their part to protect the group's civil liberties and to help them reach the American dream.