The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
March 21, 1993 | HUGH R. MORLEY, Record Staff Writer
JERSEY CITY — Hundreds of Muslims rallied Saturday to fiercely denounce the media portrayal of their religion, the demonstration taking place near the mosque where a suspect in the World Trade Center bombing had worshiped.
Speaking to a crowd waving signs and sporadically thrusting their fists in the air, Muslim leaders denounced terrorism and attacked the media and federal investigators for what some speakers described as a
deliberate campaign to smear the reputation of all Muslims.
“We have to make a statement to the media and a statement to the FBI,” Imam Isa Abdul Kareem, leader of a Roosevelt, N.Y., mosque, told several hundred Muslims gathered in a parking lot behind Journal Square.
“Islam is not synonymous with terrorism. We must show them that Islam means peace,” he said. “Masjids [mosques] will not be used to hide terrorists and they have not been used to hide terrorists.”
The nearly three-hour rally was the largest display of anger by Muslims since the Feb. 26 bombing sparked an investigation that has led to the indictment of two men with Muslim connections. One of them, Mohammed Salameh, 25, of Jersey City, had prayed at the Masjid Al-Salam, above a row of stores behind which the rally was held.
Both Salameh and the second suspect indicted in connection with the bombing, Nidal Ayyad, 25, of Maplewood, have been described as adherents of exiled Egyption cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, who has often preached at
Muslim leaders told the crowd, however, that the media were distorting the truth and prejudiciously branding all Muslims. One speaker called the media “this devil” and others called the media reports racist.
None of the speakers directly tackled any of the contentions by authorities that Muslims connected to the masjid were involved in the bombing. However, a written statement, distributed by the Islamic Circle of North America, rejected any official Muslim connection.
“We deplore the recent car bomb attack,” said the release. “If, in fact, a Muslim individual or group had any role in the bombing, they acted on their own and against Islamic principles.”
Protesters began gathering in the cold outside the front entrance to the walk-up masjid on Kennedy Boulevard about 1 p.m. and moved to the rear of the building about 30 minutes later. The crowd was swelled by seven bus loads of Muslims brought in from the Bronx, Connecticut, Brooklyn, and Queens.
Led by the religious leaders, the crowd chanted, “We are not terrorists” and “Islam is peace.” Some protesters carried signs with handwritten slogans like “Stop Vicious Anti-Islamic Campaign” and “We Shall Not Tolerate Terrorism.”
Muslim officials said more than 25 mosques were represented at the rally, which began and ended with hundreds of Muslims kneeling on the freezing macadam in prayer.
“We’re trying to show that this is a racist way that this whole thing has been treated,” said Paul Ahuja, a Jersey City resident of Indian descent, handing out leaflets for the All Peoples Congress.
“They’re whipping up racism in the media against Arabs and Muslims in general.”