Ravinder Bhalla, a city council member at large and council president of Hoboken, New Jersey, was called a “terrorist” on Twitter by a Donald Trump supporter, media reports here say. The Sikh-American councilman hit back at the troll, saying “you clearly don’t know what it means to be an American”.
Ravinder Bhalla posted a message on Twitter about the Hoboken City Council approving a waterfront multi-use pathway. After Bhalla sent out the tweet, Robert Dubenezic – an open supporter of Republican presidential nominee Trump – expressed shock that Bhalla was a councilman. “How the hell did Hoboken allow the guys to be councilman? Shouldn’t even be allowed in the US #terrorist,” Dubenezic tweeted on Thursday, last week.
Bhalla, was quick to answer, exclaiming, “Sir, I am born and raised in America. You clearly don’t know what it means to be an American…#ignorant.” Dubenezic’s Twitter page contains several posts expressing his support for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Trump.
“With a lot of the rhetoric we’re hearing from people like Donald Trump about Muslim Americans and people who are perceived to be from a Muslim background, I think the spread of Islamophobia from our national leaders sends the wrong message,” Bhalla told NBC News.
Many voiced their support of Bhalla, including elected officials US Representative Bonnie Watson-Coleman and Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer, members of the Sikh-American community, and his constituents.
Bhalla is an attorney and founding member of the national Sikh Bar Association. He earned national recognition for leading a successful challenge to the New York Police Department for restricting the religious practice of a Sikh officer, and he successfully challenged the search policy of the Federal Bureau of Prisons after he was asked to remove his turban in order to see a client.
“I hope this episode shows people that words can be hurtful and that discriminating based on how someone looks shouldn’t just be ignored. People should be educated on different faiths and backgrounds so that diversity is celebrated,” Bhalla said. “America is, after all, a nation of immigrants. And if we work together instead of against each other, we’ll accomplish so much more. At the end of the day, I don’t hold any malice toward this person. I forgive him for what he said and hope he will educate himself about how his comments can be hurtful and divisive,” Bhalla said.