BREAKING: Two men arrested for allegedly hurling ‘Muslim terrorist’ slurs at Secaucus woman; teenagers speak out at council meeting

SECAUCUS – Secaucus residents turned out in force at the Town Council meeting Wednesday night to take a stand against intimidation. Two Secaucus men, ages 58 and 64, had been arrested on charges of bias intimidation and harassment earlier in the week when police were called to Front Street in the center of town. After leaving a bar the men allegedly approached a 25-year-old town resident who was wearing a hijab, or head scarf, and “screamed derogatory terms and racial slurs” at the woman. They told her to “go back to your country” and “you’re not welcome here, you Muslim terrorist,” according to what the victim’s sister told the Town Council.
“They didn’t physically do anything to her but it sounded like they were in her face,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli at the meeting.
Gonnelli said he believed the incident may have been prompted by the arrest days earlier of half a dozen Secaucus residents of Pakistani descent as part of a credit card fraud scheme busted by federal and state investigators. The residents were unrelated to the victim.
Speaking to the Town Council and assembled residents was Fedah Mohammed, 17, the sister of the victim and a student at Secaucus High School, describing the climate of fear.
“I completely understand that non-Muslims are afraid of the hate crimes being committed by extremist groups like ISIS. Crimes being committed by these groups are terrible and moralistically wrong,” she said, but, “just because ISIS is supposedly a ‘Muslim’ group does not mean that they are a representation of all Muslims around this world. Saying every Muslim shares the same beliefs as ISIS is just like saying all Germans share the same beliefs as the Nazis; it’s like saying that all white people share the same beliefs as the Ku Klux Klan; it’s like saying that if a Chinese man, an African American man, or a Spanish man committed a horrid crime, then all Chinese, African, or Spanish men are like that one man. Oftentimes, the actions of the radical few are used to determine those of an entire race, religion, etc.”
Hundreds of residents filled Town Hall for the meeting, as two students from the Junior State of America (JSA) and their chapter adviser, teacher Michael Gehm, spoke out about the incident.
Among those speaking was Iqra Ahmed, chapter president of the Secaucus High School Junior State of America, announcing the JSA initiative promoting “Stand for Reason: Intelligence over Ignorance.”
“These are our top students,” said Gonnelli, noting that several residents contacted him to express their fear just to leave their homes in the wake of the bias incident. “These kids are the best of the best. And they shouldn’t have to live one day worried.”
Gehm spoke of the confused state of tolerance in our society, and the need to accept people but not behavior.

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