By Naeisha Rose
The Jamaica Muslim Center was packed last Friday as state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) held a Town Hall Against Hate with representatives from nonprofits and city agencies throughout New York.
“It’s important to get the information out to as diverse a community,” Comrie said. “The Jamaica Muslim Center is at the forefront of Muslim affairs in bringing peace and harmony to the community.”
He pointed out that Queens residents must have every chance to protect and defend themselves.
One of the members of the center was Kagi Oddin, 36.
“We are suffering [from hate crimes] and this kind of program is good for us,” he said. “This will create more dialogues that will benefit our community.”
Jamaica Muslim Center President Nizam Hassan opened the proceedings.
“I came here for a better education, to be a better individual,” he said. “I’ve been asked about my time here now and when I initially came to America,” Hassan said. “I said yes, we need to build a wall, a wall against hate, we need to deport hate not liberty.”
Comrie was the first panelist to address the crowd.
“It disturbs my heart the hate speech coming out of Washington, D.C.,” he said, referring to some of the comments made by President Trump and members of Congress.
Comrie added that the rhetoric was “causing a divisiveness that should never happen in this country [and it] compels me to say that we need to change the course of this country by voting.”
Comrie later said that “by doing that we can change the country from the inside out.”
Comrie emphasized that he intends on keeping New York a sanctuary city and that he will combat misinformation that creates “anxiety” and “panic” in the Muslim-American community.
City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), spoke about the recent surge in anti-Semitic incidents.
“The tremendous spike in hate crimes in this city and this country has gone through the roof in the first two months,” Lancman said, referring to the period following Trump’s inauguration. “Not just Jews but Muslims as well,” he added. “All of us must work together in coalition as friends.”
“It starts with knowing what your rights are,” Lancman added.
The policy manager from the New York Immigration Coalition, Muzna Ansari, advised Muslims-Americans and immigrants how to proceed in difficult situations.
“If you are an undocumented immigrant, you should have an emergency plan,” she said. “If ICE comes to your home, you do not have to open the door unless they have a warrant with your name on it signed by a judge.”
Ansari further explained how undocumented immigrants should respond to police officers, that they should have a person to provide legal authority over their affairs, to document improper search and seizure and what to do about a deportation notification or court warrant. She also elaborated on arrangements for minor children, travel under the new travel ban and how citizens have the right to deny giving their technical devices to airport officials.
Queens Borough Director of Community Affairs Jessica Douglas represented the mayor at the event.
“I want to relay that for those that might not have the courage to be here tonight we are here to support you,” said Douglas. “It’s only through education that we can eradicate this fear to make this community great not just with citizens, but with immigrants, too.”
The last main speaker of the night was Carmencita Gutierrez, director of the Queens District Attorney’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
“District Attorney [Richard] Brown created the Office of Immigrant Affairs so that no one should be afraid if they are the victim of a crime,” Gutierrez said.
“We should not be afraid to seek help,” she added. “Just like Lady Liberty stands in the harbor to welcome all, Lady Justice, she represents justice for all.”