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Defending diversity

There is a curious silence in Queens.

Donald Trump, a native of the borough and the presumed GOP frontrunner in the race for president, has promoted a registry to track Muslims living in America after the Paris terror attacks. He also has urged surveillance of mosques and shutting down some Islamic worship sites across the country.

President Barack Obama and Mayor Bill de Blasio have roundly condemned Trump’s attempt to target one religious group.

But only a few elected officials from Queens have spoken out to defend the Muslim community despite representing the most diverse borough in the country. An estimated 81,000 Muslims were living in Queens in 2010, according to the latest figures available from city-data.com, but the number has undoubtedly grown over the past five years.

In fact, Muslims were viewed as a powerful-enough bloc in city politics that de Blasio approved shutting the school system for two Islamic holidays. He acted back in May as Muslim-led terrorist attacks escalated in Europe and the Middle East.

The mayor’s decision to close the schools for Eid-al-Fitra and Eid-al-Adha was welcomed publicly by lawmakers across the borough. But in the aftermath of the devastating Paris attacks, support for a religion hijacked by ISIS terrorists may be too toxic for many politicians to take a stand, which is understandable but still disheartening.

For its part the Muslim community is mum. Aside from several Muslim leaders who helped organize a candlelight vigil in Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights soon after the deadly Paris assaults, there have been no press releases from Islamic groups in the borough or public statements.

State Assemblyman Francisco Moya and state Sen. Jose Peralta spoke at the Diversity Plaza vigil. Several days later Assemblyman Ron Kim hosted a vigil in Flushing attended by state Sen. Toby Stavisky, Councilman Peter Koo and Councilman-elect Barry Grodenchik, who spoke about tolerance.

Trump’s GOP rivals have denounced his anti-Muslim proposals, which have drawn fire across the political spectrum, from the White House down, as anti-American. But Queens, where nearly half the residents are foreign born, seems strangely removed from the public debate.

Where is the outrage in the world’s borough, where the signing of the Flushing Remonstrance in 1657 to stop persecution of the Quakers ushered in the religious freedom that is a cornerstone of this country?

Trump now has Muslims in his cross hairs. But who’s next?

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