One of biggest concerns of former Bernards Township Mayor Ali Chaudry, elected to the Township Committee in the months following 9/11 and now a Rutgers professor, is his fear that the 10th anniversary of 9/11 could spur unjustified paranoia against Muslims.
Chaudry spoke with the Basking Ridge Patch in a phone interview just prior to Sept. 11. He also appeared at an ecumenical community service at The Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge on Sunday evening to recite a prayer in Arabic and to offer the hope, "Let us move forward from the darkness out of the past." He did not discuss these topics at that time.
Speaking earlier, Chaudry, a longtime township resident born in Pakistan said that with regards to the new terrorist threats in Manhattan, officials should “take the threats seriously” because there are unfortunately "bad people in the world that have their own mindset, own agenda.”
However, Chaudry warned against what he said can become "Islam-phobia." He added Muslim mosques must be careful in the upcoming days because violence and vandalism could result from anti-Muslim individuals and groups.
Furthermore, Chaudry said he fears that the media and some politicians are in fact making a bigger deal about the tenth anniversary than should be made. That, too, can result in unjustified negativity about Islam, he said.
Finally, Chaudry said most Muslims in fact are peaceful. He points to the fact that many organizations like the Islamic Society of North America “are working with people of all faiths to counter the messages from extremists.”
On his home front, Chaudry is working with several Muslim organizations on community service projects. The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge will be giving out 230 macaroni and cheese packs to children in need as one project, he said.
Chaudry also has been working to help assure that food can donations are being collected and properly allocated to the homeless through a collection program in Liberty Corner.
He’s said he's also been reading service prayers and working to help Muslim mosques open their doors to non-Muslims.
Mohammad Ali Chaudry has been a Basking Ridge resident for the past 34 years, he said. He said he was the first Pakistani-born mayor to take that position in an American town when he was appointed as Bernards Township Mayor in 2004.
Chaudry has served both on the Township Committee and Board of Education while living in town.
Chaudry also is a professor at Rutgers University, through which he said he currently is teaching two classes. The first is a course in Business Statistics for the Rutgers School of Business, and the latter is a non-credit course in Freehold, about his recent book "Islam & Muslims."
As a continuing part of that goal, Chaudry on Monday held two separate presentations on his book, "Islam & Muslims," which he uses in teaching his course, "Understanding Islam," through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Rutgers University.
Students in his class on Islam and Muslims are showing increased interest in the subject, Chaudry.
Chaudry said he will be giving additional lectures in October about his book and about how the Muslim word Shari’h can be misconstrued by those who are fearful of Islam.
Chaudry has been making his presence known for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Chaudry said he attended the opening of the state's 9/11 memorial with Governor Christie at Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
He said he also would attend the Liberty Corner Fire Company's dedication of a memorial for firefighters on Sunday.