Md. Democrats Want Congress to Speak Out on Backlashes Against Muslims - Southern Maryland Headline News

Md. Democrats Want Congress to Speak Out on Backlashes Against Muslims

WASHINGTON (March 2, 2016)—In response to incidents against American Muslims following recent terror attacks, six Maryland House Democrats are co-sponsoring a resolution condemning "violence, bigotry and hateful rhetoric" against Muslims in the United States.

Between 1999 and 2014, the number of hate crime incidents against Muslims increased by over 381 percent, according to analysis of FBI Hate Crime data. Many Muslims have faced backlashes following the Paris attacks and San Bernardino shooting.

As of Feb. 23, 129 House Democrats have co-sponsored the resolution condemning retaliation against Muslims. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., is the chief sponsor. The resolution has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on the Constitution and civil justice.

"It is unacceptable to use violent and hateful rhetoric that targets any group or individual on the basis of religion," said Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, one of the cosponsors and a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The other Maryland Democratic representatives who are resolution cosponsors include John Delaney of Potomac, Chris Van Hollen of Kensington, John Sarbanes of Towson, Elijah Cummings of Baltimore and Steny Hoyer of Mechanicsville.

Resolutions are designed to express the collective opinion of the chamber.

"(This resolution's) purpose is…to hopefully express the consensus of Congress to the public and administration on a serious social issue like Islamophobia and its impact on the safety and rights of American Muslims," said Robert McCaw, government affairs manager at the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He added that if the resolution were to pass the House, "it would also act as a signal to other lawmakers that the introduction of anti-Muslim legislation based in the principles of Islamophobia would not be welcomed by Congress, or at least the House in this case."

A similar Senate resolution sponsored by Sen. Steve Daines, D-Mont. aims to affirm "the importance of religious freedom as a fundamental human right that is essential to a free society" and protected by the Constitution.

"In Maryland and across the country, we continue to embrace and protect cultural, racial and religious diversity," Edwards said.

Pew Research Center estimated there were about 3.3. million Muslims living in the United States in 2015, which is nearly 1 percent of the total population. In 2014, 1 percent of Maryland's population was Muslim, according to the American Values Atlas. This translates to almost 60,000 people.

The Muslim population is projected to double by 2050, according to analysts.

"The best thing Congress could do at this time to prevent Islamophobia while respecting the First Amendment rights of those who hate Muslims would be to adopt anti-profiling legislation," McCaw said.

McCaw mentioned the End Racial Profiling Act, which would prohibit law enforcement from racially profiling people. The Safe Schools Improvement Act would also prevent bullying in schools, he said. Both bills have been referred to committees for further review.

Stop Bullying, a blog run by the Department of Health and Human Services, also posted suggestions to prevent bullying of Muslim students.

Suggestions for educators included teaching students about discrimination, encouraging them to be allies when facing bias or bullying, and creating an anti-bias learning environment by incorporating the perspectives of Muslims in the curriculum.

"We must make our voices heard in the face of hate," Edwards said. "H. Res. 569 reaffirms that violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims, and all communities in this country, will not be tolerated."

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