At a time when some commentators are still, somehow, clinging to the argument that Islamophobia does not exist, New York City is taking the great step of launching a social media campaign to champion the idea that Muslims and New York City are united. Since September 26th, NYC’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts are featuring photos of various Muslims alongside the words, “I am Muslim. I am NYC”. Some of the photos feature messages such as, “New Yorkers of all faiths deserve to live safely and free from discrimination” and, “In NYC, it’s illegal to discriminate against or harass someone based on their religion or creed”. They’re also promoting the hashtag #IAmMuslimNYC.
— (طوبى)Tuğba Kurt (@TugbKurt) September 27, 2016
The city has seen a painful rise in Islamophobic incidents since 9/11. In 2001, the FBI reported that anti-Islamic crimes in the city rose by more than 1600%, and continued rising year-on-year again in 2010 by 50 percent Mayor De Blasio, who assumed office in 2014, seems to be on a sincere mission to address this. Earlier this year he hosted the city’s first public, mayor-backed Iftar, where New Yorkers of all backgrounds gathered to mark the end of a day of fasting in Ramadan over dinner. De Blasio is also the man who last year openly talked about the importance of welcoming Syrian refugees as an American value. Perhaps most significantly, he is the mayor who ended the controversial NYPD program that was unconstitutionally monitoring Muslims in the city. Last but not least, he also saw to it that Eid-al-Fitr and Eid-al-Adha were made public holidays within the city.
— NYC Human Rights (@NYCCHR) September 26, 2016
In the press release that accompanied the beginning of the social media campaign, De Blasio is quoted as saying, “Now more than ever, it is important for every New Yorker to stand united as one city and reject hate and violence…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.”
As well as this campaign, and all the other steps taken by the city over the last two years, De Blasio and his team are working on hosting community safety and fair treatment forums, developing a cultural competency workshop (with the input of Muslims) and increasing public outreach and awareness efforts on religious protections. The Mayor also recently hosted his London counterpart Sadiq Khan for a “Building Inclusive and Progressive Cities” forum. That is a seriously impressive approach to targeting not only racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, but also battling terrorism and terrorist mindsets. Is it too late to get De Blasio on the presidential ticket?