County Executive Robert Astorino’s Speech to Muslim Gathering

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County Executive Astorino addresses Muslim community group at the Andalusia School in Yonkers Friday. Photo courtesy, Westchester County Department of Communications

As-Salamu Alaikum.
Thank you for inviting me here today and affording me the honor and privilege to speak to you. I’ve been coming to the great Andalusia school for many years, and I’ve always been welcomed so warmly by my dear friends here.
My father always taught me that you can tell who your real friends are – not when the sun is shining – but when the storm clouds gather.
During times of trial and tribulation… those standing beside you, and not running for the hills… those are your true friends.
Or as the Muslim-American scholar Yasir Qadhi said, “What hurts is not the criticism of our enemies but rather the silence of our friends.”
During a time of great change in our country, when uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety are running high in the Muslim community over the Executive Order on entry into the United States, I wanted to be sure you know I am not silent.
I stand here besides you today and every day… to reaffirm our special friendship.
To let you know, as the county’s top elected official, that not only are you welcome here, but that the contributions of our Muslim-American community are ESSENTIAL here.
As the Westchester County Executive, I am so proud of our great diversity – racial, religious, political… The contributions of our Muslim brothers and sisters benefit our county greatly.
You are lawyers and doctors, teachers and business owners, bus drivers and service workers, mothers and fathers.
You work hard, raise families, play by the rules and deserve respect. You are the American dream.
Please know… and make no mistake about it… I would never support a religious test on who comes into our country… America… a country settled by Pilgrims and Puritans fleeing religious persecution.
Careful screening of all people – YES. Religious test for some, NO.
We all want peace and security. What’s often forgotten is that Muslims across the world are the most frequent victims of terrorist attacks, whether the terrorist is a Muslim or a non-Muslim as was the case in the awful terror attack at the Mosque up in Quebec a couple weeks ago.
That’s why it’s incumbent on us – good people of Faith – to stand together on our shared values, love of peace, and on one of the great founding principles of this wonderful nation – the freedom of religion.
We should all continue to commit to making our community and our country stronger. We do that working together, trusting and respecting one another.
Lastly, I want you all to know as well, that discrimination will not be tolerated in Westchester.
Our Human Rights Commission seeks to promote dignity and respect by advancing justice, equality and education for all peoples in the county.
A few years ago, I was honored to appoint the first Muslim-American to our Human Rights Commission, Sonia Chin. As you may know Sonia, moved to Texas for a job opportunity and I was equally honored to replace her with the second Muslim-American to the HRC – Ghada Salim. You know Ghada as a gifted English teacher here at Andalusia and we are so lucky to have her on the HRC.
If you or someone you know has been discriminated against on the basis of your religion, you can contact Ghada or you can call the HRC at 914-995-7710. Or you can send me an e-mail.
We will not stand for it. I will not stand for it.
Again, thank you for inviting me to your house, thank you for your friendship, and thank you for your confidence in OUR country.


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