The seven-million strong American Muslim community fears a backlash after the Tuesday (Oct. 31) attack in New York where a driver plowed a truck through crowds in lower Manhattan killing eight and injuring a dozen more.
Imam Mohammad Qatanani, spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of Passaic County (N.J.), said: "People here feel they will be blamed as a religion and as a people. Because this guy was a Muslim, Muslims will be blamed anywhere and everywhere."
According to Pittsburg Post-Gazette the Islamic Center of Passaic County had already received eight telephone threats, prompting police to assign extra patrols to the area.
"They say they're going to kill us, they're going to burn the place down, all using extremely foul language," said the mosque's president, Omar Awad. "They say, 'We're going to come rip your ... beard off.'"
The New Jersey office of the Council on American Islamic Relations reported threats had also been made against the Omar Mosque, next door to the apartment house where lived Sayfullo Saipov, the man who is accused of plowing a rental truck into bikers and pedestrians.
Tensions have flared within the Muslim community as well, with two men getting into a fistfight at a mosque in a dispute over the cause of Saipov's alleged radicalization, according to Post-Gazette.
"When we figured out he was from Paterson, we knew trouble was coming," Rami Abadi, a 32-year-old graphic designer told Washington Post. Abadi attends the mosque next to the apartment building where Saipov was living. "All eyes are going to be on Paterson now. Because of one psycho," he added.
Little Istanbul: Paterson is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States. Islamic leaders in the city of 147,000 people estimate Paterson's Muslim population at 25,000 to 30,000.
Neighborhoods have been dubbed Little Ramallah or Little Istanbul for their respective Arab and Turkish residents. Peru has a consulate in the city to serve the large number of Peruvians.
Paterson was an engine of the Industrial Revolution, its factories churning out textiles and embroidery that helped earn it the nickname Silk City. But many of the industrial jobs are gone, and nearly a third of Paterson's population lives in poverty, the city beset by crime and drugs.
It has been in this environment that the Muslim community established itself over decades, with a mix of Arab, Asian, African-American and European members of the faith. The Islamic Center of Passaic County, formed nearly three decades ago in Paterson, draws about 2,000 people for Friday communal prayers.
Now, some are afraid they will be made to answer for the actions of a man many leaders of the community say they didn't know.
Pittsburg Post-Gazette quoted Qatanani as saying that Saipov did not attend the Passaic County mosque. As for the Omar Mosque, congregants disagreed over whether he prayed there.
The Omar mosque had been targeted by the New York Police Department, which conducted broad surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey, New York and beyond after 9/11, a program uncovered by The Associated Press in 2011. An NYPD report from the surveillance found no evidence of criminal activity at the Omar Mosque, Pittsburg Post-Gazette said.
President Trump: The day after the truck attack, Trump tweeted that the United States "will be immediately implementing much tougher Extreme Vetting Procedures." Trump also said he wanted to send the attacker to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and called for the attacker to receive the death sentence.
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