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NJ councilman targeted by hateful messages responds to man who called him ‘terrorist’

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HOBOKEN, N.J. — Ravinder Bhalla has been city councilman in Hoboken, New Jersey, for 7 years, hardly running into any problems during his reelection campaign.

Recently, Bhalla penned a measure that would help improve parking by the waterfront district, and tweeted his constituents about it to let them know.

He never thought he would get the response he did.

A resident of the neighboring Jersey City tweeted saying, "how the hell did Hoboken allow this guy to be a councilman. He shouldn't even be allowed in the U.S. #terrorist"

To be clear, Bhalla is not Muslim. He is Sikh.

"My faith as a Sikh is identical to the values of Americans," Bhalla said. "Values of equality, justice, tolerance - those are values that Sikh-Americans have."

The man behind the tweet is Robert Dubenezic. He was not at his Jersey City home Friday but PIX11 News was able to track him down by phone.

This is how that conversation played out:

  • Robert: It is not enough they want to live here, but they want to be on the council. I don't care if they are born here or not...
  • PIX11: Who is they?
    Robert: Muslims.
  • PIX11: But he is not Muslim; he is Sikh. There is a difference.
  • Robert: Well, they all look the same to me. I don't like that thing they wear that looks like a tablecloth.

Bhalla, who proudly displays an American flag in his law office, said he is not angry and does not even want an apology.

"I do not need an apology, but would love to use this as an opportunity to educate other people about who Sikhs are," Bhalla said. "We are proud Americans and we would die for this country."

Bhalla spoke about the incident Friday in an op-ed published on NJ.com titled "How my city responded to bigotry leveled against me."