De Blasio Administration Ramps Up Fight Against Islamophobia

Reacting to an upsurge of bias attacks nationally against Muslims, Mayor Bill de Blasio today unrolled a series of ongoing events and a media campaign to promote respect, understanding, and support for the City’s diverse Muslim communities.

According to researchers and law enforcement officials, reports of attacks and threats against Muslims have surged nationally, most likely fueled by national and international terrorist attacks and political vitriol. The NYC Commission on Human Rights, the City agency charged with fighting discrimination, has increased investigations into discrimination based on race, national origin, and religion in New York City by more than 60 percent over the last two years.

Mayor Bill de Blasio
Mayor Bill de Blasio

“Now more than ever, it is important for every New Yorker to stand united as one city and reject hate and violence,” said de Blasio. “In New York, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Agnostic, and Atheist — it doesn’t matter. We are all New Yorkers and we all deserve to live safely and free from hatred or discrimination. We will not tolerate discrimination or violence of any kind and we will not rest until all New Yorkers, including our Muslim brothers and sisters, are treated with the dignity they deserve.”

While City agencies, including the NYPD, continue to engage Muslim and immigrant leaders to better protect and respond to the needs of their communities, the City is ramping up its support for Muslim New Yorkers to respond to recent events.

image005According to the Pew Research Center about three percent of the New York Metropolitan is Muslim. This includes thousands in Brooklyn enclaves, most notable a large Pakistani community along Coney Island Avenue, a Bangladeshi community along McDonald Avenue in Kensington, and a large Arab and Palestinian community in Bay Ridge.

De Blasio said his Community Affairs Unit, along with the Office of Immigrant Affairs and the Commission on Human Rights will spearhead the initiative.

“To combat xenophobia and Islamophobia, we must come together in solidarity to develop strategies against it,” said Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. “Our recent convening with Muslim community leaders, immigrant advocates, and refugee rights advocates is leading to the creation of a shared action plan.”

The action plan for public outreach and support to the Muslim, refugee, and immigrant communities includes:

  • Launching a digital ad campaign today led by the NYC Commission on Human Rights to promote respect and understanding of Muslim communities and underscore anti-discrimination protections under the NYC Human Rights Law. The ads will appear on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the hashtag #IamMuslimNYC. The ads will direct traffic toNYC.gov/iammuslimnyc, which will list resources, events, and calls-to-actions in an effort to support and serve Muslim New Yorkers.
  • Hosting Community Safety and Fair Treatment Forums with the NYPD, the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, NYC Commission on Human Rights, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Department of Education to discuss public safety concerns on the streets and in our schools, anti-discrimination protections under the law, and information on accessing City services.
  • Developing a cultural competency workshop with the input of community leaders, including and the Islamic Center at NYU, called “Understanding Islam” to help City employees and public and private employers citywide better understand the Islamic faith and to dispel common myths. The NYC Commission on Human Rights will launch a pilot workshop in October 2016.
  • Increasing public outreach and awareness efforts on religious protections under the NYC Human Rights Law, including issuing a new fact sheet explaining protections against religious discrimination with a focus on Muslim communities and a new brochure on protections against religious discrimination under NYC Human Rights Law with practical examples to identify discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations. These materials will soon be available in several languages.
  • Launching a citywide media campaign in late spring 2017 to educate New Yorkers on combatting xenophobia and embracing religious diversity, and create toolkits for government agencies and non-profits to improve cultural competency with faith-based communities.
Linda Sarsour
Linda Sarsour

“I welcome the efforts of the de Blasio administration to send a strong message that Muslim New Yorkers are our residents and neighbors with deep ties to our city and nation and they deserve to live with dignity and in safety,” said Linda Sarsour,  Executive Director of the Bay Ridge-based Arab American Association of New York. “We look forward to working with the different agencies to ensure the success of this city-wide initiative to combat Islamophobia and racism in all its forms.”

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also hailed the initiative, saying hate is not a Brooklyn value.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams

“Our borough proudly seeks to embrace the rich diversity present within each of us, and fights against any ill-conceived effort to divide us on any measure. We are home to hundreds of churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples where the freedom to worship is exercised every day, and we will defend that right with every breath we have,” said Adams.

“Brooklynites will rally around our Muslim neighbors at a time when they are being inappropriately targeted with hatred and violence, and we will do the same for any community facing similar ill treatment,” he added.

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