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By Mirna Alsharif, CNN
The Republican who defeated New Jersey’s state Senate president last week has “committed to renouncing” hate speech amid criticism of old tweets he posted expressing Islamophobia, a Muslim advocacy group in the state said Wednesday.
State Sen.-elect Ed Durr met with Muslim community leaders in the state on Wednesday, according to Selaedin Maksut, the executive director of the state’s chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, who told CNN that the conversation with Durr “went very well.”
“To be honest, I think it went very well, we got exactly what we came for,” Maksut said. “He committed to renouncing that hate speech and not engaging in it moving forward.”
Maksut was joined by local Muslim leaders when he met with Durr Wednesday evening. They shared stories of how it felt to grow up Muslim in America, and how Durr’s words have impacted them, Maksut said.
Maksut said Durr apologized sincerely and committed to standing against Islamophobia and other forms of hate.
Durr ousted New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney last week, winning the powerful Democrat’s seat in state Senate District 3. Wednesday’s meeting came as Durr was under fire for old tweets that were uncovered by news outlets, including CNN, including one from 2019 in which he referred to the Prophet Muhammad as a “pedophile” and Islam as “a false religion” and “a cult of hate.”
Durr told local reporters after Wednesday’s meeting that his discussion with Muslim leaders was “very open” and said he believes progress was made.
“It’s very easy to hate somebody that you don’t know, but if you know them personally, and you talk to them, it’s very hard to hate them, don’t you think?” he said. “As I reiterated to the group inside … I stand against Islamophobia and all forms of hate and I do commit to that. And I look forward to working with the Muslim community.”
Durr also said he was given a copy of the Quran, which he was seen holding when he spoke to reporters Wednesday evening.
Maksut said that while the election took him by surprise, he now looks forward to working with Durr on legislation that impacts the Muslim community.
“Now we have a connection with him so we look forward to working with him on things that will impact the Muslim community,” Maksut said. “We’re going to hold him to that commitment.”
CNN obtained cached and archived copies of tweets in which Durr indicates support for QAnon and expresses Islamophobia. CNN contacted Durr and Twitter for comment.
Durr apologized for his Islamophobic comments in a statement to CNN affiliate KYW. “I’m a passionate guy and I sometimes say things in the heat of the moment. If I said things in the past that hurt anybody’s feelings, I sincerely apologize. I support everybody’s right to worship in any manner they choose and to worship the God of their choice. I support all people and I support everybody’s rights. That’s what I am here to do, work for the people and support their rights.”
He expressed a number of controversial views on his Twitter account.
In one tweet from the summer of 2020, he wrote to another Twitter user using the hashtag “WWG1WGA,” a well-known QAnon phrase that means, “Where we go one, we go all.”
Durr also expressed xenophobic ideas, tweeting in 2018 that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, should “stop pushing #sanctuary state & inviting #illegals to our state.” He added the hashtags “#BuildTheWall,” “#NoIllegals” and “#MAGA.” CNN also unearthed a tweet from Durr at the state’s first lady, Tammy Murphy, calling Covid-19 the “China virus” and blaming the “influx of #IllegalAliens” for “the return of diseases.”
Durr’s Twitter account has since been deleted.
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CNN’s Patrick Cornell, Laura Ly, Paul P. Murphy and Devan Cole contributed to this report.