Muslim Groups Push Back Against Increasing Hate Speech

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As anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be on the rise throughout the country, with high-profile protests against mosque construction and a handful of violent episodes against Muslims, Muslim groups are pushing back.

Last Monday, a group of young Muslim professionals from the D.C. area launched My Faith My Voice, a web site that encourages fellow Muslims to upload their own PSAs explaining that although they are Muslim, they’re not terrorists.

“When we see our loyalty as Americans questioned, that’s something we take very seriously,” the group’s lawyer, Hassan Ahmad, told TPM. “The point of the campaign is one of bridge building, reassurance, an invitation to listen to who we actually are … that Americans of other faiths will lend an ear and listen.”My Faith My Voice got attention on cable news for its own high production value PSA, which features several Muslim-Americans saying they don’t support terrorism and don’t want to impose Islam on anyone else.

Speaking out for the first time since opposition broke out over plans to build an Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan, a coalition of 50 Muslim groups spoke at New York’s City Hall on Wednesday to denounce religious intolerance.

“We support the right of our Muslim brothers who wish to build that center there,” said Imam Al Amin Abdul Latif, president of the Majlis Ash-Shura of Metropolitan New York. “However, the bigger issue and the broader issue is the issue of ethnic and religious hatred being spread by groups trying to stop the building of mosques and Islamic institutions across the country.”

That same day, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim rights group that has been denounced by mosque opponents as a supporter of Hamas, on Wednesday released a series of public service announcements focusing on Muslim first responders to the Sept. 11 attacks. CAIR — often the focus of vitriol — has also been extremely vocal about denouncing violence and anti-Muslim sentiment.

There’s been pushback behind the scenes too. An interfaith coalition of religious groups, including Muslim organizations, met last Monday with Department of Justice officials. The religious leaders said they urged the DOJ to speak out about the recent violence and focus more resources on investigating and prosecuting anti-Muslim crimes. The DOJ has not commented on the meeting, but told TPM yesterday that they department is investigating two of the most high-profile incidents.

In Tennessee, where construction equipment being used to build a mosque was torched last weekend, Muslim leaders met with the FBI and U.S. attorney in Nashville. At the meeting, the feds sought to reassure the frightened leaders, who have requested extra police surveillance. Some, the Times reports, are worried that Eid celebrations marking the end of Ramadan — which falls on Sept. 11 this year — may be misinterpreted and lead to violence.

One group, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, is urging Muslims to participate in the National Day of Service on Sept. 11 and is organizing volunteer opportunities.

“‘Muslim Serve’ is about demonstrating how our Islamic values inspire us to serve humanity,” the group said in a release.

“Given the climate in the country right now and the … intense levels of attacks that many Muslims are feeling, this effort is meant to channel those emotions toward something that is good both for our faith and our country,” the group’s policy director told Yahoo.

Expect more pushback next week, as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is trying to build the Park51 Islamic center near Ground Zero, speaks in the U.S. for the first time on the controversy.

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