'We will fight hatred with love, we will fight bigotry with inclusivity. And today I am a Muslim too.'
New Yorkers by the thousand, representing myriad backgrounds and faiths, converged on Times Square, to let Muslims know their fellow Americans stood by them.
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Over a thousand people from various faiths declared ‘I am a Muslim too’ as they assembled at the iconic Times Square in New York to express solidarity with the Muslim community and protest against US President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
The rally was co-organised by the Foundation For Ethnic Understanding and the Nusantara Foundation in response to the uncertainty and anxiety created by Trump’s now-rescinded executive order to bar citizens from the seven Muslim-majority nations.
The ‘I am a Muslim Too’ solidarity rally drew several thousand people who raised slogans and held banners of ‘Love Trumps Hate’ and ‘USA, USA’ and ‘No Muslim Ban’.
Headlined by American entrepreneur and author Russell Simmons and actress Susan Sarandon, the rally on Sunday saw participation by several faith leaders who denounced the divisive political environment in the country and called on Americans to stand up for Muslims facing increasing threat and pressure.
Addressing the rally, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said America was founded to respect all faiths and all beliefs and stereotypes against the Muslim community has to be dispelled.
“The message I want to give as mayor of the city to everyone regardless of background or faith or where you were born is that this is your city and this is your country,” he said.
The mayor said America was founded by people who were fleeing religious persecution and was founded to respect all faiths and all beliefs.
“This is who we are as Americans and this must be protected. An attack on anybody’s faith is an attack on all people of faith,” he said.
Lauding the 900 Muslim members of the New York Police Department, de Blasio said the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world are “overwhelming peace loving” people who care about their community.
“We have to dispel the stereotypes faced by the Muslim community,” de Blasio said declaring at the end of his speech that “I’m proud to say today I’m a Muslim too”.
Eminent Sikh-American speaker and activist Simran Jeet Singh said he is supporting the rally “because as a Sikh, we know what discrimination and oppression feels like. We want a world that is acceptable and tolerant”.
Sarandon said given the political environment in the country, it is no longer possible to be neutral. “If you are silent, then you are complacent.
“We are here because we will not be a cog in a machine that is dismantling our constitution, that is dismantling our bills of rights,” she said to loud cheers from the crowd.
Sarandon added that New Yorkers should tell their representatives that the city is “open and accepting”.
“We will fight hatred with love, we will fight bigotry with inclusivity. And today I am a Muslim too,” she said.
American-Muslim woman Latisha James said she was proud to be part of the solidarity rally that was sending a strong message that people are coming together to support the community and will not tolerate discrimination against its members.
“Everyone is of the same nature. There should be no discrimination, we are all the same. We all migrated to America so for Trump to put a ban on Muslims and refugees is not appropriate. It’s not going to happen,” she said.
She said a lot of Muslims and refugees have been discriminated against and “it’s good that everyone has come together finally to support the Muslims”.