Source: Yahoo News
By Caitlin Dickson
The days following the terrible March terror attack in Brussels, when an ISIS cell planted bombs that killed at least 35 people injured more than 300, was a tense time for the whole world, but especially for Chris Rodriguez, director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
By coincidence, Rodriguez was presiding over a regular quarterly meeting of his department’s Interfaith Advisory Council, a meeting I was invited to observe. The Muslim representatives on the council — about a quarter of the total — were, of course, horrified by the attack. But they had another concern as well: the proposal by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, then a leading Republican candidate for president, for “law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” The idea had been praised by Cruz’s rival, Donald Trump, who had already declared that “Islam hates us” and announced a plan for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
The month before, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rodriguez’s boss, had endorsed Trump for president.
Imam Mustafa El-Amin, of the Masjid Ibrahim mosque in Newark, N.J., had some questions for Rodriguez. Would there be increased security for Muslims in the state to guard against retaliatory attacks? And what was he supposed to tell members of his congregation who asked why the state’s governor was supporting a man who seemed to delight in taunting and making enemies of fellow Muslims?
The questions required another iteration of the delicate balancing act Rodriguez, 38 — a New Jersey native, the son of a Guatemalan immigrant, and a former CIA counterterrorism analyst — has been performing since Christie named him to the post in 2014. His job is to help keep the state safe from terrorists, including allies and followers of ISIS. But he also must protect New Jersey’s 400,000 Muslim residents from attacks that might be directed against them — and earn their trust and cooperation in the larger struggle. It’s a difficult job, made more so by the political climate. Some terror experts, such as Josh Cohen, senior adviser at the Rutgers University Institute for Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, worry that divisive rhetoric from “highly visible individuals … drives a wedge between those who are trying to address these issues and the very communities they need to work with.”