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C CAIR-FL In The News

Muslim organizations say they've seen increased unity, support since travel ban

By Paradise Afshar - Digital Editor, For Local 10, On 03 February 2017, Read Original
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PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - It's been about a week since Wilfredo Ruiz has had a moment to himself.

As the spokesman for the Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, his phone has been ringing almost non-stop since President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days and indefinitely suspending the refugee-admission process from Syria.

One of Ruiz's tasks is to answer calls from the dozens of organizations that want to extend their support to the Muslim community and would like CAIR members to stand in solidarity with them at rallies and protests.

"Because we are a very formal organization, I need it run everything by our directors and that time you're waiting to five them a response, sometimes it's hours or half a day," Ruiz said, before pausing and with a chuckle continues, "but I wanna say yes immediately."

The open houses, meetings with the FBI and local law enforcement agencies, interfaith prayers and charity work that Muslim groups take part in don't always grab headlines, but this week the work these organizations have done to dispel negative stereotypes about Islam has been visible.

"We got a letter from the MCCJ and the Miami Jewish Federation saying 'we are with you in these difficult times,'" Shabbir Motorwala of the Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations said.

Motorwala  points out that South Florida is unique when it comes to interfaith relations. Communities have forged strong bonds over the years and it's not uncommon for activists to reach out to one another.

"When Jewish synagogues get threatened, we stand up for them and they show support for us too," Motorwala said.

There were dozens of interfaith sessions across South Florida this week.

Sheryl Tropin, who serves as the board chair for MCCJ – the oldest interfaith organization in the country –  said her group has set out time to visit local mosques to stand side-by-side with the Muslim community.

"Together, we need to maintain a country that continues to display compassion for those 'yearning to breathe free' and welcomes them as we offer 'liberty and justice for all,'" she wrote in the release. "This can be done without compromising the need for security nor the principles on which our nation is based."

Tropin urged people to reach out to their congressional representatives and to speak out against the travel ban.

Khurrum Wahid, an attorney and co-chair for Emerge USA, has been working with others in the legal community to help travelers stuck at ports of entry by offering free legal advice.

Wahid also provided free legal services to those affected by policies passed during the George W. Bush administration. He said the post-9/11 mindset that drove some legislation 15 years ago is the same one that is behind the latest travel ban. 

The difference is support for those who are affected. 

"It was hard to find lawyers back then. This time they are tripping over themselves to help," Wahid said. 

Wahid points out that the political climate in the country has changed since 9/11, and views of Muslim-Americans have evolved since then.

"As a country, we've matured a lot in the last 15 years," Wahid said. "I do believe most people in America are really fair."

Ruiz echoes Wahid’s views of solidarity among Americans.

"When Trump announced the southern wall, you see everyone coming in solidarity. When people hit the streets when they heard about the Muslim ban, they were coming together," he said. 

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