NEW YORK, New York– New York City hosted the 29th annual Muslim Day Parade on Sunday, with the theme “Islam and America Share Common Values.” Despite the slogan, the event featured anti-Israeli “occupation” protesters, aggressively anti-Israel speakers, and flyers were distributed featuring a doctored image of Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi wearing swastikas on his face.
The decades-old festivities were sparsely attended and shadily organized. Despite the fact that it was a sunny, refreshingly cool, but beautiful day in New York City, no more than 150 people were part of this rally. A few hundred more, mainly parents with children, were at the street fair which featured rides, food, games. It was not immediately clear who was organizing the event– no group was listed as a sponsor. Instead, four men’s names and phone numbers were given.
Whoever was in charge of the event appeared comfortable with a number of revealing, incendiary flyers being distributed against Muslim Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has been pivotal in stopping the Muslim Brotherhood’s expansion in his country and, thus, has incited the ire of many Islamists. One poster boasted the word WANTED in all capital letters, adding “for Crimes Against Humanity,” allegedly perpetrated by General Sisi. Another flyer advertises: “Huge Protest Against the Visit (SISI) to the United Nations. This will take place on 9/25/14. A swastika is painted on his cheek. The flyers indicate the Muslim American Day Parade was fertile ground for Muslim Brotherhood operatives.
The flyers belied what appeared to be a moderate sentiment echoed by the crowd. No one was brazenly or obviously flying the flags of ISIS or of Jihad as has been done in the past. Yes, there were black and white flag-like materials intertwined with red material on some floats, but they were not flown as flags or carried as banners. While most women wore hijab, some were black and “unfriendly,” but many were rather colorful and “friendly.” Only some women were entirely face-masked or wearing burqas.
The speeches added to the feeling that “Islam and America Share Common Values.” The President of the Muslim Foundation of America, Ainul Haque, urged Muslims to “get united”–but not on behalf of broad American values or on behalf of non-Muslim Americans, but on Muslim-specific goals “The Muslim community is struggling to get school holidays for children – working hard with Muslim community to get Allah’s food in the schools. Please register to vote,” he urged.
Another unnamed speaker offered this ambiguous message: “We have been prosecuted but (we) always obey the law. Peace be upon us. Please obey the law. America is our homeland… We are not going anywhere. Muslims are facing injustices around the world. We are here in (a) democratic society…we are thankful for elected officials – we salute you. Please bring next year your family and friends. We want to double and triple (the number of) people here. Show our strength and how peaceful we are. Clean this place. God bless America and God bless Muslims.”
I hesitate to interpret what he might mean by “clean this place” but am fairly certain that some other speaker will clarify this.
Other speakers were more overtly political. Dr Mohammad Battanani (sic) urged listeners to “work together for peace and justice for all. We have to work for justice for our people in Palestine, in Kashmir, in Egypt, in Iraq. It is justice for all.”
Why did he have to bring in Palestine and Kashmir when Muslims mean one thing when they say these two words, and Israeli Jews and Hindus mean something entirely different, opposite? Justice for Muslims-only in Kashmir means that the very last Hindus, long under siege, have to leave so that Muslims can destroy their temples and lay claim to a city that is sacred to Hindus. The same can be said for what many Muslims consider the parameters of Palestine and the Jewish people.
This man tried to redeem himself by clarifying: “ISIS does not represent us or represent Islam. We are against violence everywhere…Be with democracy not with dictators. We have to help democratic governments to end occupation everywhere.”
The anti-Islamic State sentiment continued with another speaker, an Islamic scholar, adding: “We denounce any kind of terrorism. As you heard – Islam is a religion of peace. We oppose every kind of terrorism wherever it is.”
Another speaker, Imam Tafsirli from the Harlem Islamic cultural center, also denounced the Islamic State terrorist group as being other from the Muslim peoples of Iraq and Syria:
You cannot be a Muslim without believing in Jesus. Mohammed came to the entire world… he almost fell into doubt, but God reminded him about Abraham the father of monotheism. Let your life be for God and let your death be for God… ISIS is not Syria. Isis is not Iraq. Isis is not Islam.
In the same breaths, however, he called for a “coalition to take care of the children of Palestine.” He added another political sentiment, “greet[ing] the commissioner” and noting that Muslims “make his work easier. We do not sell alcohol or drink alcohol we do not drive drunk. We do not kill women and children in cars on the road.”
Other speakers also spoke directly of politics. Mohammed Unis, another speaker, spoke of “voting power. Financial donations. The issue on Palestine is all about justice.”
It is not clearly known how the event was organized. As mentioned above, only a number of men were listed as leaders in the event, and described as serving on the Board of Trustees of the Muslim Foundation of American, Inc..
The President of this foundation, Brother Ainul Haque is apparently an accountant who practices in Astoria, Queens. In 2009, Ain Al-Haqe was arrested and convicted for filing fraudulent tax returns for his clients. Without shame, he has advertised his Crescent Accounting Services in the Parade brochure.
Senior Vice President, Dr. Shafi Bezar, is listed next. He is a retired surgeon who, at the 2012 Muslim American Day parade, chanted repeatedly, and emotionally, from the dais: “We will die for our belief: ‘There is no G-d but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.” He also called for “Takbir” (expansion) three times and led the assembled in a Nazi-like salute.
Trustee Shabbir Gul’s FaceBook page says that he is a Pakistani, from the Punjab. Most of the photos are of himself or of his children. One woman, presumably his wife, is wearing black hijab and dark glasses. He belongs to a number of associations including the Maimonides Interfaith Society, (which features anti-Zionist Karen Armstrong) and the ICNA–an acronym which is not spelled out but should not be confused with the Islamic Circle of North America. However, if you visit their website (that of ICNA) you will see that their members marched “for Gaza” in many cities across the country. Malomaat, another organization, is in Punjabi, or Urdu, or perhaps Bengali but seems to be religious in nature. Muslims for Humanity Relief is another organization that Gul belongs to. With some exceptions, this one mainly assists Muslims, Muslim communities and Muslim centers in distress.