WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 (APP): Already struggling to dilute the anti-Islam sentiments that heightened during the US Presidential election, anxiety and fear has again gripped the Muslim community of a town in the New Jersey state where the Uzbek man, who killed 8 people in a terrorist attack in New York lived.
Sayfullo Saipov ploughed his truck into people standing at a road-side biking track in a busy neighborhood in the worst terrorist attack in the city after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Saipov had been shot but survived and is now in police custody.
The fact that the attack involved a Muslim has worried the community across the country which had to fend-off a wave of anti-Islam sentiments emerged in the wake of statements by some presidential candidates, including the now President Trump.
During his election campaign, candidate Trump called for ban on entry of Muslims to the United States that drew widespread criticism from world over. He followed through with his statements by banning entry of citizens from eight countries, including six Muslim-majority nations.
He implemented the ban through two versions of his executive order which faced legal challenges in the court. After this week’s attack, President Trump asked Congress to terminate the popular US Visa Lottery program to prevent people from immigrating to the US.
Paterson, an industrial city in the northeast of New Jersey from where Saipov lived, is home to one of the largest Muslim population in the United States. Salah Mustafa, an Arab Muslim, said he was in his office at Citibank in midtown in New York when he heard the siren and about the attack.
His immediate reaction was, “Please don’t let it be a Muslim I hope he’s not an Arab or a Muslim,” he told the Washington Post. At least one of his prayers was answered. The terrorist was not Arab. But there was even worse news, he turned out to be a Muslim. Worst of all, he belonged to a city in the neighboring state of New Jersey.
Patterson is also a city where two of Sept. 11 hijackers had rented an apartment in the year leading up to the attack and the city saw swarms of FBI agents in the aftermath of the attack for investigation.
Now Muslims of the city, like Rami Abadi, fear that Paterson will once again become the focus of policy and intelligence agents. “All eyes are going to be on Paterson now. Because of one psycho,” he said referring to Saipov American Muslim leaders and civil rights advocates say that last two years saw a spike in anti-Muslim sentiments, in part by the attack in San Bernardino and by statement by President Trumps and his allies.
Trump has taken this horrific act and used it as an excuse to attack the Muslim community and immigrant Americans, said Albert Fox Cahn, the legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations New York chapter.
The Washington Post report said that there was a visible anxiety in the area after police and journalists zeroed in on the neighborhood where Saipov lived.
“Clearly now there’s a fear of backlash,” Mustafa, who also serves as the spokesman for the Islamic Center of Passaic County, told the Washington Post. “There’s a fear of tarring.”
“We’ve struggled and worked so hard to make this area an example of how successful American Muslims can be,,,, It just feels like every time one of these things happens, it sets us back,” Mustafa said.