Local Muslims were encouraged Saturday to engage in their broader communities to combat rising discrimination.
“I think the message tonight for me is that Muslim communities need to continue to organize. They need to ensure that their voices are heard. They need to ensure they’re part of the civic process, the political process,” said Haris Tarin, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
“That’s the only way we can kind of counter this public rhetoric about Islam, which directly correlates with the discrimination and hate crimes against American Muslims,” Tarin said.
Tarin and Aisha Rahman, executive director of KARAMAH, an organization of Muslim women lawyers for human rights, were the guest speakers at a public forum Saturday evening in the Islamic Center on Heim Road in Amherst.
Both spoke with The Buffalo News before the forum, which was titled “Our Civil Rights, Civil Liberties & the Family Law – a View from Washington.”
Tarin talked about the challenges faced by the Muslim community over the past four years and those still ahead.
A rising number of Muslims have been the victims of hate crimes over the past four years, he said. There has also been a rise in employment and housing discrimination against the community, he said.
At the same time, the community has made some strides, he added. The government has prosecuted more hate crimes committed against Muslim Americans and is looking into more claims of housing discrimination against them.
“Unfortunately, in the past four years there has been a rise of discrimination,” Tarin said, “but at the same time, the communities themselves have been organizing – they have been mobilizing, they have been engaging in the process.”
Rahman, a lawyer who specializes in domestic violence cases, talked about Muslim women involved in recent domestic violence cases.
She spoke of the need to better educate about Islam, pointing out how the incorrect interpretation of the religion in the courtroom not only affected the victim in these cases but also painted a poor picture of Islam in the public.
“Women’s issues are no longer women’s issues,” Rahman said. “They are affecting the health and sanctity of our families and our communities as a whole.”
The forum was sponsored by the Muslim Public Affairs Council Western New York as part of its 2012 annual meeting and attended by more than 80 people.
The program also included a presentation on Somalia by Abdiweli M. Ali, a Niagara University professor and former prime minister of Somalia.