By Carmelyn P. Malalis, Nisha Agarwal and Marco Carrión
Xenophobic rhetoric has reached a fever pitch in recent months. Across the country, Muslim, immigrant and refugee communities have become targets for hateful speech and even hateful acts, including here in Queens.
In New York City, we do not and will not accept hatred, violence, or discrimination of any kind. Now more than ever, we stand united as one city and reject hate and fear in all its forms.
To the Muslim, immigrant and refugee communities living in every borough of this great city—we see you, we affirm your dignity, and we will not allow you, your families, or your communities to be harmed or targeted in any way.
This week the de Blasio administration announced several ongoing efforts to address violence, discrimination, and hate targeting your communities, including public safety events, a social media ad campaign supporting Muslim New Yorkers, distribution of educational anti-discrimination materials, and workshops to increase cultural awareness and combat xenophobic rhetoric.
The tragic murders of Nazma Khanam, a 60-year-old Bangladeshi woman fatally stabbed in Jamaica Hills, the recent shootings of Imam Maulama Akonjee and his associate, Thara Uddin, in Ozone Park, and the Muslim woman who was set on fire in Manhattan are stark reminders of the need to increase public safety for vulnerable communities across the city.
In response, the city and its agencies, including ours, will be continuing to host public safety forums to address violence targeting your communities. We will share information from NYPD, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Department of Education to ensure that you know your rights. Earlier this month, the NYPD and city officials met with Muslim leaders to discuss increased security measures surrounding Eid ul-Adha celebrations.
Our agencies also continue to engage and unite different Muslim, refugee, and immigrant groups across the city in an effort to combat hate and discrimination. Recently, we met with many of these communities to discuss shared actions to combat xenophobic rhetoric, including a joint multi-sector action plan to join forces and push back. Mayor de Blasio also met with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan along with 200 Muslim leaders this month to discuss how New York City and other cities can better address Islamophobia and prevent hate crimes and other acts of discrimination.
The New York City Commission on Human Rights also launched a bold digital ad campaign this week with hashtag #IamMuslimNYC on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in support of Muslim New Yorkers. The ads affirm and celebrate Muslim New Yorkers, underscore anti-discrimination protections under the NYC Human Rights Law, and direct people to NYC.gov/
We also recognize that change also needs to happen from within, which is why the NYC Commission on Human Rights is working with community leaders and the Islamic Center at NYU to create a workshop called “Understanding Islam,” which will promote religious literacy among city agency staff and public and private employers citywide. IDNYC staff, the largest municipal ID program in the country, already received Islamophobia training earlier this year. The NYC Commission on Human Rights will also host free workshops for the general public addressing religious protections against discrimination under the NYC Human Rights Law.
New York City cares about the safety and dignity of all its people, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or where you pray. In New York City, we are all New Yorkers—Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, agnostic and atheist alike.
We are made stronger by our diversity. And we will not rest until all New Yorkers, including you and your families, are safe and treated with the dignity and respect you deserve.
Carmelyn P. Malalis
Commissioner and chair, New York City Commission
on Human Rights
Commissioner of Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs
Commissioner, Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit.