Reacting to a sharp increase in attacks against the Muslim community across the United States, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled Monday a social media campaign and outreach program to support Muslim residents of the country’s most populous city.
The plan was announced by the city’s Community Affairs Unit, Office of Immigrant affairs and the Commission on Human Rights. It comes just over a week since authorities allege Ahmad Khan Rahami set off bombs in the Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea and on the Jersey Shore after being inspired by extremist Islamic ideology.
“Now more than ever, it is important for every New Yorker to stand united as one city and reject hate and violence,” de Blasio said in a statement released by New York City’s mayor’s office announcing the scheme. “In New York, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Agnostic, and Atheist — it doesn’t matter. We are all New Yorkers and we all deserve to live safely and free from hatred or discrimination. We will not tolerate discrimination or violence of any kind and we will not rest until all New Yorkers, including our Muslim brothers and sisters, are treated with the dignity they deserve.”
The explosions followed similar attacks by Islamic extremists in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as well as San Bernardino, California, and Orlando in recent months. In response, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called for a blanket ban on Muslims entering the U.S. However, New York’s Democratic mayor, a campaign manager for Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton when she first ran for senator of New York, has consistently rallied against increasing anti-Muslim sentiment.
The statement from the major’s office cites “political vitriol” as a likely cause of the rise in hate crimes committed against American Muslims to levels not seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The U.S. is home to an estimated 3.3 million Muslims, with several hundred thousand living in New York City, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center Study. Last month, an imam, a person who leads prayers in mosques, and his assistant, were killed in an execution-style shooting in the borough of Queens.
Aiming to counter discrimination, the New York City program will include an ad campaign across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter “to promote respect and understanding of Muslim communities and underscore anti-discrimination protections under the NYC Human Rights Law.” Workshops, fact sheets, and forums have also been scheduled to both educate non-Muslims and bring Muslim communities together.
It is not the first time De Blasio, who has served as mayor since 2014, has launched initiatives aimed at embracing New York City’s Muslim residents. Among his proposals was recognizing Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha as public school holidays.
"I welcome the efforts of the de Blasio administration to send a strong message that Muslim New Yorkers are our residents and neighbors with deep ties to our city and nation and they deserve to live with dignity and in safety,” said Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. “We look forward to working with the different agencies to ensure the success of this city-wide initiative to combat Islamophobia and racism in all its forms.”