One of the first speakers at a community forum in Chelsea on relations with the Muslim communities in Revere, Chelsea, Eastie and Everett, was a 10-year-old boy who summed up the hopes of everyone in the room.
It silenced the standing-room only crowd.
“I am an American,” he stated. “I really love both America and Islam. I wish one day when I turn on the TV, there will be no fights about Muslims and how our religion is.”
On Friday, Feb. 27, Al-Huda Society hosted a community forum in Chelsea, with local law enforcement and faith leaders to condemn the threatening anti-Muslim notes that were found in Revere last week. The meeting was an opportunity to assess, identify and address the concerns of different members from the community.
The panelists were:
- Muhammad Ali-Salam, U.S. Department of Justice
- Pastor father James Barry, Saint Mary’s Revere
- Prof. Mohamed Brahimi, Moderator
- Officer Sammy Mojica, Chelsea Police Community Liaison
- Pastor Tim Bogertman, First Congregational Church of Revere
- Shannon Erwin, Muslim Justice League
The panelists made it clear to the audience that any discriminatory acts against Muslims or any other minority groups have to be reported to the police and other government agencies such as the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).
“These acts are against the law,” said Ali-Salam. “You must report them so they can be documented and investigated by law enforcement agencies.”
Officer Mojica stated, “We don’t know who these individuals are (in Revere) but I can guarantee you that the law enforcement community will get to the bottom of it and will bring these individuals to justice.”
In an earlier meeting in Revere, Mayor Dan Rizzo expressed his outrage in an official statement saying, “Revere has grown more and more diverse over time, and the heart and soul of our community beats as one”.
At the same meeting with the mayor, Revere Police Chief Joe Cafarelli strongly condemned the signs saying they “will not be tolerated. Not on my watch.”
He further stated that the investigation is ongoing and those responsible will be prosecuted to “the fullest extent of the law.”
Rabbi Joseph Berman, Temple B’Nai Israel Revere, wrote a heartwarming email to the organizers of Friday’s event as it was described by the moderator. He stated in his letter that “an attack on your honor is also an attack on God. Therefore, it is an attack on our honor.”
Professor Brahimi emphasized to the audience that the message is very clear across the board.
“Your advocate does not have to be a Muslim,” he said. “We have people from across the spectrum of law enforcement and different religions telling you in clear words that they have your back and you don’t have to find refuge on your own. You can find refuge with anyone within the community.”
Many participants expressed their concerns about the demonization of Muslims by U.S. mainstream media.
Pastor Tim Bogertman of Revere’s First Congregational Church responded to their concerns by encouraging the participants to be more involved within the community and build relationships with local media agencies.
He said to start inviting them to the Muslim community events and sending press releases to local newspapers to build upon that.
Prof. Brahimi recognized the fledgling efforts of Zarah Magazine in trying to make inroads in the community.
“Perhaps the Muslim and the Arab American community could support this media experience that has demonstrated a high level of professionalism and make it a strong media project to support the community needs,” he said.
The full coverage of this event is available on Zarah magazine’s YouTube channel and it will be broadcast on some local TV stations.