American Muslims' ongoing civil rights fight

2014-07-21 14:19:12 | Al Muslim News
American Muslims' ongoing civil rights fight

 

Thirteen years after the September 11 attacks, Arabs and Muslim Americans in the US still face continuing bias and prejudice, Arab Americans and civil rights activists say. "It has gotten worse for us," said Nadia Tonova, the executive director of the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC) in Dearborn, Michigan. "We are a community that is constantly under suspicion. It's really at a point where it's out of control." The NNAAC is rolling out a $4.5m grassroots mobilisation campaign called "Take on Hate" in New York City on July 15, designed to give Arab Americans and Muslims tools for combating bias and prejudice. The campaign, funded by the Open Society Foundation and the Proteus Fund, will focus on achieving public policy changes, educating the US public about Muslims and giving community activists a platform to battle discrimination. The campaign aims to challenge acts of discrimination such as an incident that occurred on June 16, during a panel discussion held by the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. During a discussion about the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a Muslim law student named Saba Ahmed said: "We portray Islam and all Muslims as bad, but there's 1.8 billion followers of Islam. We have eight million plus Muslim Americans in this country and I don't see them represented here." One of the panellists, Brigitte Gabriel, responded that moderate Muslims in the US were "irrelevant" in the fight against radicalism. "It is time we take political correctness and throw it in the garbage where it belongs and start calling a spade a spade," retorted Gabriel - drawing a standing ovation from the crowd of about 150 people. In a recent cable television exchange with Gabriel, Linda Sarsour - the national advocacy director for the NNAAC - challenged Gabriel for linking all Muslims to terrorism. "I want you to understand that if you want to combat terrorism, you need to work within the Muslim community. You need to make sure that we are part of that and the, quote, 'moderate' Muslims that you're talking about, which are almost every Muslim living here in this country, need to be part of this discussion." Muslim American activists worry that rhetoric such as Gabriel's can fuel violent attacks and hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims. There are some 3.6 million Americans of Arab descent, many of whom are Christian, and an estimated six million American Muslims of varying nationalities.

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