Mary­land Democrats Want Congress to Speak Out on Back­lashes Against Mus­lims

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum - By DEEPA RAMUDAMU Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

WASH­ING­TON – In re­sponse to in­ci­dents against Amer­i­can Mus­lims fol­low­ing re­cent ter­ror at­tacks, six Mary­land House Democrats are co-spon­sor­ing a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing “vi­o­lence, big­otry and hate­ful rhetoric” against Mus­lims in the United States.

Be­tween 1999 and 2014, the num­ber of hate crime in­ci­dents against Mus­lims in­creased by over 381 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to anal­y­sis of FBI Hate Crime data. Many Mus­lims have faced back­lashes fol­low­ing the Paris at­tacks and San Bernardino shoot­ing.

As of Feb. 23, 129 House Democrats have co-spon­sored the res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing re­tal­i­a­tion against Mus­lims. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., is the chief spon­sor. The res­o­lu­tion has been re­ferred to the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee’s sub­com­mit­tee on the Con­sti­tu­tion and civil jus­tice.

“It is un­ac­cept­able to use vi­o­lent and hate­ful rhetoric that tar­gets any group or in­di­vid­ual on the ba­sis of re­li­gion,” said Rep. Donna Ed­wards, D-Fort Wash­ing­ton, one of the cospon­sors and a can­di­date for the U.S. Se­nate.

Res­o­lu­tions are de­signed to ex­press the col­lec­tive opin­ion of the cham­ber.

“(This res­o­lu­tion’s) pur­pose is...to hope­fully ex­press the con­sen­sus of Congress to the pub­lic and ad­min­is­tra­tion on a se­ri­ous so­cial is­sue like Is­lam­o­pho­bia and its im­pact on the safety and rights of Amer­i­can Mus­lims,” said Robert McCaw, gov­ern­ment af­fairs man­ager at the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions.

He added that if the res­o­lu­tion were to pass the House, “it would also act as a sig­nal to other law­mak­ers that the in­tro­duc­tion of anti-Mus­lim leg­is­la­tion based in the prin­ci­ples of Is­lam­o­pho­bia would not be wel­comed by Congress, or at least the House in this case.”

A sim­i­lar Se­nate res­o­lu­tion spon­sored by Sen. Steve Daines, D-Mont. aims to af­firm “the im­por­tance of re­li­gious free­dom as a fun­da­men­tal hu­man right that is es­sen­tial to a free so­ci­ety” and pro­tected by the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“In Mary­land and across the coun­try, we con­tinue to em­brace and pro­tect cul­tural, racial and re­li­gious di­ver­sity,” Ed­wards said.

Pew Re­search Cen­ter es­ti­mated there were about 3.3. mil­lion Mus­lims liv­ing in the United States in 2015, which is nearly 1 per­cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion. In 2014, 1 per­cent of Mary­land’s pop­u­la­tion was Mus­lim, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Val­ues At­las. This trans­lates to al­most 60,000 peo­ple.

The Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion is pro­jected to dou­ble by 2050, ac­cord­ing to an­a­lysts.

“The best thing Congress could do at this time to pre­vent Is­lam­o­pho­bia while re­spect­ing the First Amend­ment rights of those who hate Mus­lims would be to adopt anti-pro­fil­ing leg­is­la­tion,” McCaw said.

McCaw men­tioned the End Racial Pro­fil­ing Act, which would pro­hibit law en­force­ment from racially pro­fil­ing peo­ple. The Safe Schools Im­prove­ment Act would also pre­vent bul­ly­ing in schools, he said. Both bills have been re­ferred to com­mit­tees for fur­ther re­view.

Stop Bul­ly­ing, a blog run by the Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices, also posted sug­ges­tions to pre­vent bul­ly­ing of Mus­lim stu­dents.

Sug­ges­tions for ed­u­ca­tors in­cluded teach­ing stu­dents about dis­crim­i­na­tion, en­cour­ag­ing them to be al­lies when fac­ing bias or bul­ly­ing, and cre­at­ing an anti-bias learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment by in­cor­po­rat­ing the per­spec­tives of Mus­lims in the cur­ricu­lum.

“We must make our voices heard in the face of hate,” Ed­wards said. “H. Res. 569 reaf­firms that vi­o­lence, big­otry, and hate­ful rhetoric to­wards Mus­lims, and all com­mu­ni­ties in this coun­try, will not be tol­er­ated.”

The other Mary­land Demo­cratic rep­re­sen­ta­tives who are res­o­lu­tion cospon­sors in­clude John De­laney of Po­tomac, Chris Van Hollen of Kens­ing­ton, John Sar­banes of Tow­son, Eli­jah Cum­mings of Bal­ti­more and Steny Hoyer of Me­chan­icsville.

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