EDISON, NJ - Students, lawmakers, and representatives of Middlesex County witnessed the Hindu and Muslim communities of New Jersey come together to voice their dissent regarding the presidential campaign of Republican Donald Trump when he spoke at a Hindu musical and cultural event this Saturday. Leaders from Congress, the NJ Legislature, religious temples, local councils, and Rutgers students were all there to protest. Many voices of the South Asian Caucus and community united to counter the Trump rally which accompanied the candidate's speech about international terrorism at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center on Davidson Road in Edison.
"The South Asian community is smarter than to be pitted against each other by words of hate because together Hindus and Muslims are one! Welcome to Middlesex County, Trump, we hope you enjoy wasting your time here! We are Democrats, and our voices are united as one!" said Raj Mukerji, a former United States Marine and current Democratic Assemblyman from District 33. Stressing unity among all members of South Asian religious groups, Mukerji quoted a prominent Hindu clergyman: "If you are a Hindu, you are a Muslim. If you are a Hindu, you are a Christian. If you are a Hindu, you are a Jew." The former Deputy Mayor of Jersey City, Mukerji is currently the only South Asian in the New Jersey State Assembly.
Rutgers student leader Mohammed Askar focused on the need for young people, especially South Asians, to participate. A member of both the Rutgers Student Democrats and the Rutgers Student Assembly, Askar urged "young people - under the age of 35 - to go out and vote."
Congressman Frank Pallone, D-6, stressed that "we are strong in our diversity here in New Jersey. Trump has been degrading women and minorities, and we won't stand for it."
Shariq Ahmad, Chief of Staff for Democratic Assemblyman (18) Robert Karabinchak, also joined in the refrain: "We hope that Trump spends lots of time here in New Jersey because he will be wasting it. The South Asian community is smarter than to be divided by hate." Ahmad is currently the only Muslim Chief of Staff for any politician in New Jersey.
Anti-Trump protestors showed up at the event around noon, expecting to be there for the candidate's speech which was scheduled to begin at 2:00 pm. They were met by Trump supporters at the site, who were also full of energy for the event. Some of that energy dissipated, though, as Trump did not take the stage until well after 6:00 pm.