Video: Islamic constituents ask Rep. Frelinghuysen to stand by them
By Kevin Coughlin
Members of Boonton’s Jam-e-Masjid Islamic Center joined scores of peaceful protesters in Morristown on Friday to urge Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.) to condemn President Trump’s executive order halting immigration from eight Muslim countries.
“I’m here to voice our message loudly that we are against this discrimination,” said Basel Hamdeh, imam of the mosque.
“This is a country that embraces diversity. It’s a country that was built by immigrants, and I’m here to make sure that the rights of those who are oppressed are protected,” he said.
The President’s executive order last week halted immigration for 90 days from seven countries, and indefinitely stopped it from Syria.
On Monday, Frelinghuysen issued this statement:
“As part of his strategy to make the safety and security of the American people his top priority, President Trump believes a pause in immigration from unstable regions is warranted. However, this weekend’s confusion is an indication that the details of this executive order were not properly scrutinized. Among others, reconsideration should be given to courageous individuals who served as interpreters for our military and properly vetted refugees. Congress has important oversight responsibilities over all executive orders, which we intend to exercise.”
That did not satisfy Saba Hussain, a lawyer in Morristown and member of the mosque, who was among demonstrators who filed into Frelinghuysen’s office on Friday, 15 people at a time, to voice their concerns.
“We want him to condemn this and call it out for what it is. It’s a Muslim ban. It discriminates against us. He needs to be more forceful,” Hussain said.
“He needs to support us. All of us voted for him. He came to our mosque in Boonton. We support the Congressman. We like him. We’re Americans. We love the country. Now it’s his turn to support us, and speak up for us,” the lawyer said.
Demonstrators also continued their requests for town hall meetings with Frelinghuysen, and spoke against GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“I fear it’s going to hit a lot of people very hard,” said Dr. Naveen Jan, an oncologist at Morristown Medical Center.
Although the ACA, better known as Obamacare, has issues, Jan said, it’s “ethically and morally correct” and is a good step towards universal health care.
The doctor described the Congressman as “a super-nice guy,” but added: “I always expected a lot more out of him.”
Frelinghuysen, elevated to chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee after winning his 12th term in November, was not present at his Morristown office on Friday. His staff listened politely and collected messages from the demonstrators.
A spokesman for the Congressman did not return calls and emails seeking comment.
A grassroots group, NJ 11th for Change, started these weekly “Fridays with Frelinghuysen” gatherings last month. Town hall meetings may be held this month without Frelinghuysen, said organizer Debra Caplan.
Morristown police and Morris County sheriff’s officers were on hand to ensure public access to the county administration building, and to enforce fire safety codes.
Earlier in the day, Sheriff James Gannon visited the Boonton Islamic center to express condolences for last month’s shooting that killed six people at a Quebec mosque.
Although Gannon said he was unaware of any hate crimes against Muslims in Morris County, he urged mosque members to remain vigilant, and to work with law enforcement to “harden” their house of worship against attack.
“We can definitely lower our risk” against terrorism, the Sheriff said.
“But certainly, issues of a lone wolf are of concern, because you can be radicalized now in the confines of your home or apartment. You don’t have to fly overseas to be radicalized…. That’s something we watch very closely here.”
Bill Lescohier and Pamela Babcock contributed to this report.
Members of NJ 11th for Change seek meeting with Congressman. Video by Pamela Babcock