Teaneck Mayor, Council Members condemn anti-Muslim speech by Hindu Supremacist at city council meeting
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Jersey (November 02, 2022) – The mayor and two city council members of Teaneck township in New Jersey have condemned and apologized for allowing a Hindu supremacist to make uninterrupted anti-Muslim comments during a city council meeting in September, which has led to outrage from Muslims across the state.
On October 28, Mayor Jim Dunleavy released an official statement condemning hatred against Muslim communities, saying, “The oppression of minorities in India is deeply concerning, and The Teaneck Town Council recognizes this for many Teaneck families whose relatives are directly affected by it. These dangerous, supremacist ideologies have no place in Teaneck or New Jersey.”
Additionally, the mayor and council members apologized to constituents during a city council meeting on October 25, during which several Muslim community members expressed their outrage over the overt display of anti-Muslim hatred by Hindu extremists.
“I have a lot to learn… Had I understood what [the speaker] had said, either I would have stopped it, or I would have walked out. I’ve done that before, and I will make sure it doesn’t happen again. I apologize, because what he did say was horrific, and I understand why every single person here is upset about that,” said Dunleavy.
“The individual that spoke vile anti-Islamic hatred should have been called out immediately,” said Councilman Keith Kaplan. “I tell my children, ‘the line you walk past is the line you accept.’ I walked past it that day… but I am calling it out now. It was wrong.”
“I did not know that [Hindu nationalism] was a bad thing… I apologize to everyone who feels attacked or misrepresented,” said Councilwoman Karen Orgen.
On September 20, 2022, a man identifying himself as Vivek took the podium allotted for constituents during a council meeting and referred to Muslims as terrorists and rapists. He claimed that Muslims had “enjoyed” 9/11 and immigrated to the United States and India to “destroy” those countries.
“You talk about any rape in the country (India) that is happening by all the Muslims over there. These Muslims, they get all the girls… They try to convert all of them. After that, they get the babies, and kill the girls,” he claimed.
Vivek’s comments were made shortly after the Teaneck Democratic Municipal Committee (TDMC) passed a resolution demanding an investigation into US-based Hindu right-wing groups with ties to violent paramilitary organizations in India, calling them “domestic branches” of “foreign hate groups.”
After the council failed to condemn Vivek’s anti-Muslim remarks, a number of Muslim Teaneck residents and allies attended October’s city council meeting to hold local officials accountable for their inaction against anti-Muslim hate speech and for platforming a Hindu supremacist.
Addressing Councilman Kaplan, Dyaa Terpstra, Operations Coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in NJ, asked, “If your interpretation of the rules of order is to cut off someone who is spreading misinformation, where were you last month when a Hindu extremist was saying that Muslims here enjoyed 9/11, and that they rape Christian women and then kill after they have babies? Is that not clear misinformation?”
“The Council shot itself in the foot,” said Yassine Elkaryani, Chairperson of the Teaneck Advisory Board on Community Relations. “It was not appropriate to allow a bigot to speak for three minutes unchecked and without being answered on the spot.”
“Someone stood here last month and blamed Muslims for 9/11, and was not called out on that… Please clarify your words now,” said Cheryl Hall, a member of the TDMC.
“For Teaneck to say that this has nothing to do with the council, the time for you to say that was last month… These people here have families who are afraid for their lives in another country,” said Hall. “They are being murdered because of their religion, because they are Muslim.”
“In my two decades [of living in Teaneck], I’ve never heard of such a thing before, where somebody comes during a council meeting and berates any other religion, and the council people are sitting, doing nothing,” said Muhammad, another Teaneck resident. “This is really embarrassing… you know us, we live in your town, and instead of respecting us and defending us against hatred, you let that person do whatever he [wanted].”
“Thanks to the bulldozer in Edison, elected officials here now realize that the oppression of Indian minorities is an issue of concern not just all the way over there in India but right here in New Jersey. Here in New Jersey, some groups are actually celebrating the tactics of persecution being used over there in India,” said author and activist Pieter Friedrich.
He further referenced the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), another Hindu American group that maintains ties with the extremist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in India.
“The HSS will come knocking on the doors of town councils like Teaneck, presenting itself as a benign religious organization and soliciting proclamations praising it,” Friedrich said. “What it won’t tell you is that it is the US wing of the RSS, a paramilitary which was created with inspiration from the fascist movements of Mussolini and Hitler, which has been banned in India three times, and which is implicated in assassinations, terrorist bombings, and massacres of Christians and Muslims.”
“Many of us in this room are losing family to Hindutva violence,” said Hashir, a resident of Westwood, NJ. “This [is the] disgusting ideology you saw and heard at last month’s council meeting… Teaneck has handled this all poorly. Councilman Keith Kaplan stated that he ‘couldn’t hear the man because of audio issues.’ That is a bold-faced lie.”
Tara, a resident of Burlington Field, stated that in her youth in India, she had been a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a student Hindu supremacist group and offshoot of the RSS.
“They take these young generations and brainwash them,” she said, stating that ABVP members chanted slogans at rallies claiming that people should support Hindutva if they want to be considered Indian.
IAMC remains committed to working with its coalition partners in New Jersey and nationwide to expose violent Hindu extremist forces who are hell-bent on destroying our social fabric. We will not let the US become a safe haven for hateful ideologies.