Muslim volunteers graduate emergency response program in New Jersey

Approximately 150 young adults from three mosques in Bergen County, New Jersey, graduated on Saturday from an emergency response program as part of an effort to recruit members of faith-based organizations for volunteer efforts.

Muslim leaders from the Teaneck-based Nida-ul-Islam and Dar-ul-Islah mosques and the Paterson-based Islamic Center of Passaic County approached county officials about getting involved with public service. They were encouraged to engage in basic training in the community emergency response team program, NorthJersey.com reports.

Nidal Matahen, the president of the Islamic Center of Passaic County, said participation of mosque members is one way for them to integrate into the community.

"We're Muslim but we're also American," Matahen said, according to NorthJersey.com. "We want to build bridges."

The weekend of January 4, the trainees spent 10 hours each day learning terrorism awareness, fire suppression techniques, first aid and CPR. In some instances, the students also educated the instructors.

Zillehuma Hasan, who works for Wafa House, a domestic violence organization for Muslim women, said that a discussion on terrorism with instructors led to changes in the curriculum.

"The definition of terrorism that was used made it look like Muslims condone it," Hasan said, according to NorthJersey.com. "There is no religion that condones violence."

The group of Muslims is the second faith-based group the county has trained. Bergen County now has a roster of 7,000 CERT members, NorthJersey.com reports.

"This is a great opportunity for the Muslim community to... make a lasting positive impression on the general public," Sabeela Zia, a member of the Nida-ul-Islam mosque, said, according to NorthJersey.com.