NJ India Day Parade organizers under fire for anti-Muslim symbol

EDISON — Mayor Sam Joshi said symbols of hatred and discrimination are not welcome in the township, after construction equipment, seen as a symbol of hatred by the Muslim community, was displayed during the parade August 14 India Day.

The parade, along Oak Tree Road from Edison to Woodbridge, marked the 75th anniversary of India’s independence and the splitting of the South Asian subcontinent into two nations, Hindu-oriented India and Muslim-oriented Pakistan, after years of civil war.

In a statement Monday, Joshi said Edison is committed to celebrating and working in harmony with people of all cultures.

But an American-Islamic relations group is disappointed that Joshi did not go further in reprimanding the parade organizers. The group also called on the parade organizers to apologize.

The parade, organized by the Indian Business Association (IBA), featured a piece of construction equipment with the pictures of Indian political leaders, who are described as supporters of hatred against Muslims and other minorities, according to Azra Baig, president of the South Brunswick Human Relations Commission.

“This bulldozer was part of a parade that was supposed to celebrate the national pride of this country,” Baig said at Monday’s city council business meeting. “As a Muslim, I find this terrorizing and harassing, as does the Muslim community in New Jersey, the country and the world.”

In India, Baig explained, homes, businesses and places of worship are bulldozed because of people’s faith and when they stand up for their rights.

“Something so heinous should never be included in a parade at Edison,” she said.

“That bulldozer on Oak Tree Road was a vicious display of bigotry, racism, injustice and prejudice. It was wrong,” a Hana Road resident told Edison.

Joshi said the India Day Parade was independently run and not sponsored by the township, but his office was told that piece construction equipment was being used as a symbol of division and discrimination. He said any symbol or action that depicts discrimination is not welcome at Edison.

“My office will work with stakeholders to ensure celebrations going forward serve the best interests of our community,” Joshi said.

The IBA, which organized the parade, did not respond to an email request for comment. No one answered the phone at the association’s office in the Iselin section of Woodbridge, and the voicemail was no longer accepting messages.

Baig and Dylan Terpstra, operations coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of New Jersey, expressed concern to council members that symbolism could have greater effects. Baig wants to make sure this kind of hate spreads through the school district, where already Muslims are sometimes blamed when fire alarms go off.

Terpstra said the construction equipment sends an intimidating message to American Indians, Muslims and other minorities that supporters of Indian political leaders who have destroyed homes and businesses are here and in control, c is why they must be called.

“Most people in America don’t understand that this was a form of hate. This needs to be condemned and the organizers need to be told that this is unacceptable and that there should be more vetting process “, did he declare.

Some of Edison’s council members, who marched at the back of the parade and did not see the construction equipment, said they did not realize its significance until days later.

Councilwoman Margot Harris said we are all aware of the extent of hatred and intolerance that is rampant in the country and around the world.

“But I find what happened a week ago on Sunday absolutely hideous, unacceptable. I believe if it was in fact the Indian Business Association who was responsible for putting this out there, they must be held accountable and we need answers on what they plan to do about it in the future,” said Harris, who also called for more education on cultural sensitivity and what kinds of symbols are toxic to people. different cultures.

Council Vice-Chair Joyce Ship-Freeman said she was troubled by the event. She said that if there had been a noose in the parade, the council members would not have walked behind it.

“It’s not my Edison. It’s not the Edison we should accept. We should all oppose it because if it’s one band today, it’ll be another band tomorrow. We all have to we didn’t know what a bulldozer meant,” Ship-Freeman said, adding that she wanted to hear from the parade organizers.

“We welcome the strong condemnations delivered by council members Harris, Ship-Freeman and many others yesterday at the council meeting. (Councillor) Ajay Patil’s dismissal of the issue is very concerning. He should not not be difficult to condemn the parade of symbols of violence and hatred in your own city,” Selaedin Maksut, executive director of CAIR-NJ, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Maksut said CAIR is disappointed with Joshi, Woodbridge Mayor John E. McCormac and local officials who have yet to unequivocally condemn the use of construction equipment – a symbol of violence and animosity. anti-Muslim.

McCormac is aware of the situation but has not commented, a township spokesperson said.

“We continue our appeal to the IBA for an apology,” Maksut said.

“The Perth Amboy Area Branch NAACP supports CAIR-NJ, the American Indian Muslim Council, Hindus for Human Rights and other organizations who have spoken out against this act of hatred against the Muslim community,” said said the Reverend Donna Stewart, branch president. statement.

“We call on Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac to join us in condemning Islamophobia and commit to begin working with the NAACP in support of anti-racism policy in Woodbridge Township,” Stewart said. .

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Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, the courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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