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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Muslim Becomes Mayor of NJ, Despite Fliers Alleging Terror Links

On November 13, 2005, Newsday reported, "PROSPECT PARK, N.J. -- The anonymous flier mailed to households days before a new mayor was to be chosen was direct and devastating in its claims: A Muslim council member, one of three candidates for the post, was 'a betrayer living among us' with ties to the 9/11 terrorists.

The mailing said Mohamed Khairullah 'should not be living in our clean town' and 'will try to poison our thoughts about our great country.'

But the letter failed to derail his candidacy; the Borough Council chose Khairullah in a 4-0 vote Wednesday night, making him one of only two Muslim mayors in New Jersey.

'The people of Prospect Park are great people,' said Khairullah, 30, a high school teacher. 'I'm just happy to have this opportunity.'

Arab-Americans and Muslims make up about 15 percent of this half-square-mile borough's population of nearly 5,800; Hispanics account for about 40 percent, with Caucasians and African-Americans representing most of the remainder.

The mayor's seat was vacated last month when Will Kubofcik stepped down because his family moved to Bloomingdale. The local Democratic party nominated three candidates to fill the remainder of the four-year term, which expires in December 2006. Khairullah, a Syrian native and former Saudi Arabian resident who was first elected to the council just two months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, was one of the three nominees.

In the mailings, the anonymous author said Khairullah has made public comments 'which show his ties to the people responsible for the horrible attacks of 9/11.'

Khairullah called those claims baseless and disgusting, and said they endangered the safety of him and his family. He said the flier probably referred to - and misrepresented - comments he made at a pro-Palestinian rally in Paterson last year in which he said American Muslims need to do their part to affect change in the Middle East, either through political activism or economic boycotts.

'I just couldn't believe someone would stoop down to that level,' he said. 'It's one thing to attack me, but to attack me in terms that place my safety and the safety of those around me in grave danger is really low.'"

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News.

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