Trump’s security picks dismay Brooklyn’s Muslim community
Bias incidents up, self-defense classes for women selling out
The latest round of nominations announced Friday by President-elect Donald Trump’s press team has sent a chill through Brooklyn’s Muslim community. Friday’s announcements centered on national security.
Trump intends to nominate U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as attorney general and U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has been selected to be his national security advisor. The Senate must approve the appointments of Sessions and Pompeo.
“This reaffirms that the Trump anti-Muslim rhetoric wasn’t just talk,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, headquartered in Brooklyn, told the Brooklyn Eagle on Friday.
“He’s filling his cabinet with hateful people,” Sarsour said. “[Flynn] called Islam, a world religion of 1.7 billion people, a ‘cancer’ and has tweeted that to fear Muslims is rational. That’s absolutely outrageous. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing we can do.”
“Our top priority is defense of the community,” she added. The organization Muslim Community Network (MCN) has begun sponsoring self-defense classes for women and “Know Your Rights” classes at a local mosque. According to MCN, the classes have been selling out.
Dr. Debbie Almontaser, founder of the Kahlil Gibran International Academy in Brooklyn and president of the board of the Muslim Community Network, told the Eagle on Friday, “I’m just, as other Americans, horrified that these are the people Trump is circling himself with to uphold the constitution. I’ve seen their records, and they’re bigoted and racist. I shudder for my country.”
Almontaser said that since the election last Tuesday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has received 11 reports of bias or hate crimes in New York City alone. She speculated that many more are unreported.
Last Friday, for example, a woman was waiting in her car at a traffic light near Neptune Avenue in Brooklyn when a man walked up and began banging on the windshield. Almontaser said the woman didn’t wait for the light to turn but quickly drove off.
In Queens, Almontaser said, a white couple riding a bus started yelling at a Muslim woman to “take that thing off your head,” referring to her head scarf.
“This is America, you can’t wear that here,” Almontaser was told the couple said to the woman. No one on the bus interfered, she said.
Almontaser also said that the NYPD was investigating a letter slipped under the doors of apartments in a housing complex in Queens, telling black residents that they had one week to leave the building.
“This is unacceptable,” she said.
Trump’s nominees: ‘World-class’ or flawed?
Trump said that Sessions, a member of the U.S. Senate for 20 years, was “a world-class legal mind and [is] considered a truly great Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in the state of Alabama.”
Sessions is also said to be well-liked in the Senate. But his nomination in 1986 for a federal judgeship was rejected by at that time because of “racially charged comments and actions,” according to the New York Times. Former colleagues said that Mr. Sessions had referred to the N.A.A.C.P., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and other civil rights groups as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.”
Sessions has long been a major critic of President Obama’s immigration and refugee policies and is an opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He has proposed to cut off federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities, including New York City. Sanctuary cities shelter illegal immigrants who don’t break serious laws.
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform congratulated Sessions on his nomination.
“As America’s top attorney, Senator Sessions would put an end to the flagrant violation of federal immigration law by the more than 300 sanctuary cities and jurisdictions across the nation,” he said. He added, “Their continued presence is a clear threat to national security, public safety and the rule of law.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, however, said at a news conference last week, “We are not going to sacrifice a half-million people who live amongst us who are part of our communities, whose family members and loved ones happen to be people in many cases who are either permanent residents or citizens – we’re not going to tear families apart.”
Lt. Gen. Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, served as Trump’s top military advisor during the campaign. He has a reputation for both brilliance and disorganization, and has been outspoken in his belief that Islam, which he considers a political movement rather than a religion, is our country’s greatest threat — and a “cancer.” Flynn would consider allying with Russia in the fight against radical Islam, according to reports.
Pompeo graduated number one in his class at West Point and is a graduate of Harvard Law School. He alleged in 2013, however, that Muslim Americans do not speak out enough against terror attacks and could therefore be “potentially complicit” in those attacks, according to CNN.
At a meeting with Trump on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he pointed out that 900 Muslim-Americans serve in the NYPD.
“I think that was an important fact for him to hear,” de Blasio told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Friday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday sent a letter to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia regarding a recent uptick in incidents of hate speech and discrimination in schools across New York.
In the letter, the Governor requested that the state Education Department take immediate action, including requiring training for both staff and students on discriminatory behavior prohibited under state law.