Georgia Muslims made history in Washington, DC on April 18th.
That day, over 330 American Muslims gathered on Capitol Hill for the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations’ second annual Muslim Advocacy Day, one of the largest gathering of Muslim activists ever held in DC. During the multi-day event, delegates met with 215 different congressional offices and advocated for social justice policies designed to benefit all Americans, regardless of faith or background.
"We enjoyed teaming up with American Muslims from across the country to deliver a unified message to our congressional leaders," said CAIR Georgia Executive Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell. "We must continue reaching out to our representatives in the hope of sparking positive change both here and abroad."
USCMO's Georgia delegation secured meetings with thirteen of Georgia's sixteen congressional representatives, including the staffs of Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson as well as the staffs of Representatives David Scott, Lynn Westmoreland, Rob Woodall, Jody Hice, and Austin Scott, among others.
“It was great to see so many young people interested in making their voices heard to their elected officials,” said Aisha Yaqoob, an Atlanta-based activist who led several meetings with congressional staff. “I hope this momentum continues and we have a greater turnout from Georgia next year.”
Indeed, several members of Georgia’s delegation were college students.
“Muslim Hill Day was a great opportunity to really learn about the different forms of civic engagement, from forming support on the issues to discussing said issues on Capitol Hill,” said Abdallah Hajaj, a student at Georgia State University. “It taught me that we all must do our part to achieve our goals.”
Mae Eldahshoury, a student at the University of Georgia, said that the experience was far more rewarding than reaching out to her leaders from afar.
“It's one thing to send a letter or an email to my representatives - it's a whole other thing to sit in their office and advocate for issues that matter to my community and I as we did on Muslim Hill Day,” Eldahshoury said. “Not only did the welcoming environment encourage me to engage in great conversations, but it also gives me hope that we can and will continue to build and maintain relationships that'll benefit our communities.”
Participants in Muslim Advocacy Day 2016 raised four issues with lawmakers.
First, delegates asked each congressional office to support resolutions recognizing and condemning Islamophobia (H.Res.569 / S.Res.373). Most staffers agreed that there is no room for Islamophobia in 2016, and that they would speak to the congressman about supporting the resolution.
Representative David Scott agreed to support the resolution in the wake of his meeting with Georgia’s Muslim delegates, according to CAIR Georgia.
"We thank Congressman Scott for joining the effort to condemn anti-Muslim hate speech, which undermines our nation's commitment to tolerance, diversity and pluralism," Mitchell said.
Delegates also asked each congressional office to support H.R.3035, the Credit Access and Inclusion Act of 2015. The bill would allow credit agencies to use additional information when forming credit reports, such as timely payments for utility or cell phone bills. Delegates argued that this would help minorities and young students build strong credit without using credit cards.
The bill could also help American Muslims strengthen their credit reports without engaging incurring interest-based debt, which most Muslims consider religiously forbidden.
Responses to the bill varied. Some staffers believed their congressman would support it. Others were weary.
Finally, delegates asked each office to support Congressman Andre Carson’s Food Deserts Act, H.R. 4833. This bill is designed to help people living in urban areas without access to affordable and nutritious food. Most offices were weary of the bill due to its $150 million price tag.
Some delegates also urged their representatives to monitor and limit law enforcement’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program by ensuring congressional oversight and privacy protections for the public.
The first National Muslim Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill took place in April of last year. 280 delegates from more than 20 states visited 200 congressional offices – one third of the House of Representatives and almost half of the Senate.
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