The number of violent incidents against Muslims has increased by 60% since 2014, according to 2015 Hate Crime statistics, the most recent year published by the F.B.I. Last month, on January 30th, six people were killed and nineteen injured, when a man sprayed bullets in a Quebec mosque.
President Trump’s recent travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries created chaos as travelers were held in airports. Though temporarily halted, it remains to be seen whether it will be upheld.
For these reasons, amongst many others, Lawrence Township’s Islamic Circle of Mercer County (ICMC) invited Lawrence Police Chief Mark Ubry and Mayor David Maffei to publically address anxieties. Not only did Chief Ubry assure members that they would be protected, as any other resident should expect, he gave them specific points on how to safeguard their community. He additionally explained that New Jersey police can only inquire about citizenship if a person has been arrested for an indictable crime or driving while intoxicated.
None of ICMC’s members were affected while the travel ban was in effect, but the mosque discourages traveling to any one of the seven (Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, and Somalia) countries for the time being, unless necessary.
Despite rather grim statistics and news reports, according to ICMC board member Iffaaz Salahudeen, the mosque has received an outpouring of community support by way of flowers, emails, and Facebook posts. For ICMC, education is a big key to forging relationships and gaining allies. In mid-November, they held a well attended “meet and greet” at ICMC, for their Lawrence neighbors, and by the end of this month they will have held presentations about Islam at libraries in Hopewell and East Windsor. When asked about the support the mosque has received, Mr. Salahudeen said, “We are really happy that our neighbors are concerned and worried about our community.”