SHAFAQNA – In a move to counter anti-Muslim sentiment, the California Assembly has designated August as Muslim appreciation and awareness month.
According to the resolution, passed August 1, California has the largest Muslim-American population in the United States at about one million people. The Pew Research Center estimated in January that about 3.3 million Muslims live in the U.S.
The resolution, introduced by Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, passed easily through a voice vote, according to Quirk’s chief of staff Tomasa Duenas.
Most San Diego-area assembly members signed on as co-authors of the resolution: Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside.
Representatives for Brian Jones, R-Santee, and Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, said that though they did not ask to be co-authors on the resolution, both voted in support of it.
The resolution said it is important to acknowledge the contributions of Muslims and Muslim-Americans ranging from agriculture to medicine.
Hanif Mohebi, executive director for San Diego’s chapter of the Center on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR, said that civil rights violations reported to his office have increased in the past two years. He said that 94 incidents were reported in 2014, compared to 179 in 2015.
A 2015 report from the California chapter of CAIR found that 55 percent of surveyed Muslim students said they had been bullied because of their religion.
Mohebi said a few months ago in San Diego, a person was pushed into oncoming traffic for being Muslim.
“That really hurt me in my heart. How could anybody do that?” Mohebi said. “These are the kinds of unfortunate situations we’re dealing with.”
He said the appreciation and awareness month is a good first step to improve the situation, and he hoped that San Diego’s local leaders would follow the Assembly’s example.
“A lot of times, there’s a lot of emphasis on the negative,” Mohebi said. “There’s one story, for example, somewhere, and whether it is true or false, Islam is blamed for it. The whole community is painted with that incident, but every single day American Muslims are serving the community through their professions.”