SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – A Muslim rights group is calling for a state or federal investigation relating to the vandalism of election signs belonging to Board of Education member Azra Baig.
In a press release Wednesday, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) asked state and federal law enforcement to investigate graffiti left on several of her election lawn signs during the recent campaign.
Baig won her second three-year term on the board Tuesday.
Several lawn signs for Baig near South Brunswick High School on Ridge Road were vandalized between Sept. 26 and Oct. 21 while she ran for office.
Graffiti with slogans such as “ISIS sympathizer,” “ISIS” and “rag head,” were discovered on the signs during that time.
Baig said she immediately reported the incident to local police who said they are continuing to investigate the vandalism.
“This kind of hate speech serves to reinforce negative stereotypes and cast a shadow of suspicion and doubt over all Muslims”, CAIR-NJ Executive Director James Sues said in the release. “We urge state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this incident as a possible hate crime.”
The incidents come during one of the most divisive and charged presidential election cycles in modern memory.
Republican Donald Trump, who won the office on Tuesday against Democrat Hillary Clinton, ran a controversial campaign that, among other things, called for a temporary ban on Muslims coming into the country until they can be thoroughly vetted due to terror attack concerns.
Clinton called the “Muslim ban” “Islamophobia” and racist.
“Unfortunately, these past months have seen a level of divisiveness and rancor that should be intolerable for anyone in a civilized society”, U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12, said in the release. “There is no circumstance where we can be willing to accept the racism, sexism, xenophobia and religious intolerance that has permeated throughout this past election cycle. Now, more than ever, we need to stand strong as one community and put aside our differences so that we may all do the hard work required to ensure an even brighter tomorrow for our country’s future generation.”
Mayor Frank Gambatese said that the incidents are not representative of the diverse township.
“I am extremely disappointed in what happened to Ms. Azra Baig’s campaign signs”, Gambatese said. “We are very proud of Ms. Baig and her service to the community. This is not who we are in South Brunswick.”
Baig also said that the incidents surprised her and are not the experience she has had living in the community and serving on the board.
“These criminal actions do not represent any part of the wonderful community of South Brunswick, NJ and the warmth and kindness of everyone I have had the pleasure of meeting with” Baig said. “I am grateful to the community for their support of my re-election and I am grateful for the efforts of the South Brunswick Police Department for their efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Anyone with information about these incidents is urged to call the South Brunswick Police Department at 732-329-4000, extension7460.
(Editor’s Note: Azra Baig also freelances for TAPinto South Brunswick and Cranbury. We were also made aware of the vandalism early on by Baig, but decided not to publish any report until after the election on Tuesday.)
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