A group of lawmakers in New York are working to rename the Donald J. Trump State Park in response to his comments about Islam, with one suggesting the park be renamed after a Muslim war veteran who likely doesn’t actually exist.
The park in question, located about 20 miles north of New York City, is an undeveloped clump of land named after Trump because he donated it to the state after failing to obtain the required permits to turn the land into a golf course.
Now, thanks to Trump’s positions and comments regarding Islam and Mexican immigrants, lawmakers say it’s time for Trump’s name to be replaced.
On Thursday, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Charles Lavine announced the “Anything But Trump Act,” which if passed would formally call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to change the name. Both lawmakers have also written letters to Cuomo urging him to unilaterally rename the park.
“Mr. Trump’s rhetoric in his presidential campaign has become increasingly hostile to the core values of our state and nation,” Squadron said in a letter to Cuomo that preceded the proposed law’s announcement. “His discriminatory proposals are unbefitting of a campaign for our country’s highest office. Mr. Trump has shown that he is unworthy of having a New York State Park named in his honor.”
Squadron wants the park to be renamed using a public process, but Lavine has a more specific proposal. In a letter sent to Cuomo, Lavine suggests renaming the park “Peter Salaam State Park,” after a man he describes as a Revolutionary War veteran and “a Muslim who played meaningful roles in the Battles of Concord and Bunker Hill.” The suggestion is presumably intended to make the rejection of Trump’s rhetoric on Islam even stronger.
But Lavine’s suggestion is extremely factually dubious, right down to the spelling of the man’s name. The veteran in question is actually Peter Salem, a former slave who served in the Continental army during the Revolution after being freed by his master Lawson Buckminster. Salem is credited with firing the shot that killed British Major John Pitcairn, one of the commanders at Bunker Hill.
Other than his service in the Revolution, virtually nothing is known about Salem. This has led some, including Lavine, to assume Salem was Muslim simply because his last name is etymologically similar to “salaam,” the Arabic word meaning peace.
Of course, his name could also easily have been taken from the town of Salem (of witch trial fame), which isn’t far from where he lived as a slave. Absolutely no other evidence exists that Salem was a Muslim, and since he was born in America he couldn’t have brought the faith with him from Africa. Lavine assigning a Muslim identity to Salem is at best a huge stretch, and at worst is warping a person’s identity solely to take a political shot at Trump.
In response to the lawmakers’ proposal, Trump released a statement arguing the state couldn’t remove his name, but, “If they want, they can give me the land back.”
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