Focusing on the issues of fear and discrimination, the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) Bitta Mostofi appeared at the Beit El-Maqdis Islamic Center of Bay Ridge on Friday, August 24 to address the borough’s Muslim community.
“One of the things that’s so important and has been such a huge part of the way that this administration and this mayor have been doing our work is making sure we are reaching out to all communities where they are,, where they’re practicing their faith, where they’re receiving their education or other services,” she told this paper, stressing that a key facet of the policy is, “Making ourselves available and accessible to connect them with resources and services.”
Following the Jumu’ah prayer, a traditional part of Islamic Friday worship, Mostofi spoke to the crowd, acknowledged their worries, and then fielded individual questions.
“I know this moment in time in our communities has been challenging and I know this personally because my family is Iranian and I grew up looking for community that I could get involved with and organize with, especially after 9/11,” she said. “What I learned in doing that work is how important it was for me to work with my sisters and brothers, to learn from each other and for us to be stronger working together and to truly represent why communities matter in our country and how we give so much back to our communities.”
While speaking with individuals, a big part of what Mostofi heard was the fear of the possible rule changes emanating from the Trump administration.
“There is anxiety because of the moment in time that we are in with the country,” she said. “The mayor was clear when we got the decision about the travel ban from the Supreme Court that what we’re seeing happening in our country is truly institutionalized Islamophobia. It is our job as the city to fight back against that and to make sure all our Muslim fellow New Yorkers know that the city still stands with them. We want to try and support people, particularly in their time of need, to know what their rights are and how to connect with services.”
Mostofi told attendees experiencing discrimination to call and report their experiences to the Human Rights Commission.
“It is only through your participation that we know the work we have to do to be responsive,” she said. “We need all of you to join us in doing that work so that we can advance the goal of caring for our communities and families.”
One man asked about green card status. Although no change has been made yet, a key, said Mostofi, is to be proactive if a harmful one is introduced.
“If (the federal government) announces it wants to make a change, it is so important to send letters to the federal government to say why this change would be very bad. We’ll have 30-60 days to tell the government, don’t make this change; it will be very bad for our communities, families, cities,” Mostofi said.
Although it’s not her first visit to Bay Ridge, Mostofi stressed the importance of coming back.
“It is fundamentally part of the work of our Office of Immigrant Affairs and the mayor’s commitment to making sure all immigrant communities at this time know that we are fighting for them; nothing about the city’s policies has changed,” she said.
The Islamic Center of Bay Ridge is located at 6206 Sixth Avenue.