Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Councilwoman's Headscarf Becomes Issue in Clifton

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Councilwoman's Headscarf Becomes Issue in Clifton

Article excerpt

CLIFTON - A resident has drawn sharp criticism for suggesting that Councilwoman Lauren Murphy disqualify herself from official action concerning a new mosque because she was photographed at an event wearing "the garment of a Muslim."

Resident Mary Fran Fallucca complained to the City Council about a massive spillover of cars onto the streets surrounding the Islamic Center of Passaic County on Pershing Road. She said that Murphy could not be impartial because of her apparent devotion to the Muslim faith.

"In my opinion, you should step down from this council because you are in conflict of interest," Fallucca said, flashing a photo of the councilwoman wearing a gray headscarf. "You clearly aren't working for all taxpayers."

A leader of the Clifton mosque cried foul, followed by several council members, including Murphy herself, a Catholic who said she was merely respecting Islamic custom by covering her head at the mosque's open house last month.

"The reason I had my head covered was out of respect for the people in the mosque and that religion," Murphy said at the council meeting on Tuesday night.

Mayor James Anzaldi took pains to explain different religious customs. Councilman Joe Kolodziej said Fallucca had "contradicted herself" by interjecting religion in a discussion she had said had only to do with quality of life, not disagreement with any faith.

Salaheddin Mustafa, outreach coordinator for the mosque, said the comments were troubling to him.

"To call that anything other than just a nice gesture, to intimate that had anything to do with a bad intention, tells me a lot about the people we're dealing with," Mustafa said. "I wish I wouldn't have heard that today."

Fallucca on Wednesday said her comments had been twisted to seem as though she were anti-Muslim. "They're trying to nail me, 'I'm not liking these people,' " she said. …

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