For Immediate Release - December 11, 2015

AG's Office, Law Enforcement Officials Meet with Muslim Community Leaders in Worcester to Hear Concerns and Offer Support

AG’s Office to Hold Community Action Hours at Worcester Islamic Center Next Month

BOSTON – Offering a platform to discuss concerns following recent terrorist attacks and the resulting growth of anti-Muslim rhetoric, staff from Attorney General Maura Healey’s office met with leaders of the Muslim community in Greater Worcester to foster a dialogue and establish a plan moving forward to ensure a peaceful and supportive environment for all local communities.

The meeting, organized by the AG’s Office at the Worcester Islamic Center Thursday afternoon, was attended by numerous community leaders and representatives of faith organizations, social service agencies, law enforcement, and education and advocacy institutions. Organizations included the Worcester Islamic Center, Muslim Community Link, Muslim Justice League, and Islamic Society of Greater Worcester.

Today, AG Healey offered the following statement on her commitment to working with the Muslim community to build a more accepting and inclusive society in Worcester and across the state:

“It is important that we remember the basic principles on which this country was founded, particularly those of inclusion and religious tolerance. The anti-Muslim rhetoric we have heard following terrorist attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, and around the world is cause for serious concern. We will not tolerate hate or discrimination of any kind.

“We must also remember that this country is a nation of immigrants. I have been troubled and angered by the ongoing public discourse on the rejection of refugees and restrictions on immigration. It goes without saying that protecting our residents against terrorism is a top law enforcement priority. But security and humanity are not mutually exclusive. We cannot turn our backs on people in need, regardless of where they come from or what religion they observe. The people of Massachusetts know better. I understand that recent events have left many people feeling afraid. Now, more than ever, we must extend our hands and focus on uniting our communities. We cannot allow fear and hate to divide us. Members of the Muslim community are our friends, our neighbors and our colleagues. They deserve our respect and our support.”

In addition to staff from the AG’s Office, local, state, and federal law enforcement and government officials attended yesterday’s meeting to offer support and identify available resources.

“We stand for tolerance in our community and we will always enforce the laws accordingly,” said Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr. 

“We have thousands of students in Worcester public schools as well as our ten colleges and universities who are foreign born and if we are to move forward as a City, we must do so together,” said Mayor Joseph M. Petty.  “Our entire immigrant community is an economic engine of innovation and all of our residents, regardless of religion or ethnicity should be made to feel welcome here in Worcester.”

“We all grieve and condemn the loss of life in recent terrorist attacks. We must also recognize that these despicable acts often lead to acts of discrimination and harassment of ordinary citizens, and we must speak out against them,” said City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. “I am proud to stand with Attorney General Healey and many others against intolerance and ignorance. We will not stand by and let members of our community live in fear, or feel unwelcomed because of their religion.”

“The Muslim community is an integral part of our city,” said Worcester Police Chief Gary J. Gemme. “The opportunity to hear their concerns and to provide assurances that the Worcester Police Department is responsive to their needs is simply a show of respect. More importantly, it is an opportunity for the police to build a relationship based upon trust and a shared commitment to working in partnership to ensure the safety and security of not only the Muslim community, but the entire Worcester community.”

To continue the dialogue and outreach in Worcester, the AG’s Office has scheduled a Community Action Hours event at the Worcester Islamic Center on Jan. 15, 2016 that will bring the office’s resources and assistance directly into the Muslim community at times that are more convenient for their families. Staff from various divisions in the Attorney General’s Office, including the AG’s Community Engagement Division, assistant attorneys general, investigators and mediators will be offering information sessions, answering questions and providing education materials.