Mass. Muslims fire back at Cahill over comments

Associated Press | 6/1/2010, 8:39 p.m.
Imam Abdullah Faaruuq from Roxbury’s Mosque for the Praising of Allah speaks before an audience of religious leaders in front of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center. The interfaith coalition came together last Friday afternoon to decry gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill’s recent remarks about Muslims. Caitlin Yoshiko Buysse

Muslim leaders in Massachusetts fired back Friday at gubernatorial candidate Tim Cahill, who they accused of making “bigoted” statements after Gov. Deval Patrick met with members of the Muslim community.

In a statement, a coalition of Muslim leaders called Cahill’s remarks “bigoted ... undignified” and “anti-democratic,” and said the governor has a right to meet with members of all religious backgrounds.

Patrick met last month with around 1,200 Massachusetts Muslim leaders who wanted to raise awareness about their faith and become more civically engaged.

At the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC) forum, Muslims, alongside religious and community leaders from around the state, engaged the governor on issues like racial profiling and rights in the workplace.

Patrick agreed to develop sensitivity trainings for educators and law enforcement, and to strengthen ties with the local Muslim community.

“Yours is a peaceful faith, and I know that,” the governor said. “I know you are worried that others know that.”

In his statement after Patrick attended the meeting, Cahill boldly declared, “I fully support equal protection under the law for every American, regardless of race or creed, but this is political correctness run amok … Now is the time for Governor Patrick to look radical Islamic terrorism full in the face.”

Noting two Muslim Americans recently were arrested in Massachusetts in connection with the probe of the attempted Times Square bombing, Cahill added: “Governor Patrick should stop playing politics with terrorism and focus on protecting all the citizens of this commonwealth.”

Cahill is the state Treasurer and former Democrat who has launched an independent campaign for governor.

“He is our governor and he has a right to meet with any religious organization,” said Kemal Bozkurt, publisher of the Lawrence-based Muslim Green Pages of New England, a directory of Muslim-owned businesses.

Bozkurt said if Cahill has any evidence that a mosque or Massachusetts Muslim group has terrorist ties he should turn it over to Attorney General Martha Coakley instead of stereotyping. “Those comments are unacceptable,” Bozkurt said. “Muslims must take action and not vote for a candidate like this.”

But this type of campaign barb is nothing new — especially before a tight election.

 During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama — who lived briefly in Muslim-majority Indonesia, and whose Kenyan father is Muslim — faced similar criticism. Right-wing critics accused Obama of being Muslim — as if practicing Islam was the same thing as committing a terrorist act.

Gov. Patrick has also lived in Muslim-majority countries Sudan and Nigeria, and began the ISBCC forum with, “Hello, how are you” in Arabic.

Even after his election, Obama continued to face criticism for his engagement with Muslims.

Nearly a year ago to the day, Obama — just a few months into his presidency — delivered a speech at Cairo University in Egypt, as a gesture of good will toward Muslims. The speech attempted to restore U.S. relations with the Muslim world, which had been severely damaged under previous administrations.

 “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” the president said, “one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based up on the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive.”