In an apparent gesture to appease a worried Islamic community in the city, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday that the war with Iraq is not against Iraqi people or Islam.
In a brief statement to an all Muslim audience when he visited Imam Al-Khoei Islamic Center, Bloomberg said the city's struggle against terrorism is not a war against the Islamic community either.
Since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, more instances of discrimination against Arab Americans have been reported. Following the outbreak of the Iraq war, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has summoned some 6,700 Iraqi Americans for questioning. This massive questioning on the basis of national origin and background has led to criticism among civil right groups in the United States.
At present 40 percent of the New York population are immigrants, including 600,000 Muslims from more than 20 countries. The Imam Al-Khoei Islamic center is home to the largest Shiite Muslim congregation in North America.
Bloomberg praised the city's Muslim population for its tremendous contribution to the cultural, social and economic vitality of New York and reiterated that the city has always respected the right of each person to practice his or her faith free of intimidation or discrimination.
"We will not tolerate any illegal or disrespectful acts against Islamic people, community, business, mosques or any other institutions. If any such acts take place, call our police. They will know what to do," he said.
Noting that a citywide survey is underway to document any instances of anti-Arab or anti-Islamic discrimination, he said the city authorities would use the information to learn more about where such instances occur and help to combat and prevent further discrimination.