State Assembly designates this August as Muslim Appreciation Month

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The California State Assembly passed a resolution Monday declaring August 2016 as Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month.

The resolution — officially called HR 59 — marks the first time any state has set aside a month in recognition of the Islamic faith. The bill, which was introduced by Assemblymember Bill Quirk, D–Hayward, and which was passed unanimously, applies only to this August, but Quirk’s Chief of Staff Tomasa Dueñas said the assembly member hopes that the body renews the resolution in the future.

“It’s a really big gesture and symbol of support for the Muslim community,” said Nashwah Akhtar, a spokesperson for the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

According to the text of the resolution, there are more than 240 mosques in California, as well as many prominent Muslim charitable institutions in the state. The resolution further states that while most American Muslims “strive to promote peace and understanding” and seek to uphold American values, they are nevertheless subjected to incidents of violence and vandalism.

Akhtar said the current election season specifically has been marked by negative rhetoric around Muslims, and she stressed the importance of recognizing Muslim contributions to American culture. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called for a controversial temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S. in light of recent acts of violence committed by militant organizations and individuals in the name of Islam.

“(Linking Islam to terrorism) is shortsighted on the part of Trump, and anyone else who would attempt to classify an entire group as terrorist,” said Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, D-Richmond. “It’s time for us to reaffirm our commitment that this is a country that recognizes religious freedom and religious diversity.”

Quirk highlighted several prominent Muslim Americans on the Assembly floor Monday in support of the resolution. These individuals included the late Capt. Humayun Khan, the soldier whose parents spoke at the Democratic National Convention, and Muhammad Ali, a former professional boxer and outspoken political advocate.

“We exist just as every other group exists,” said Kaylee Hunt, a Muslim and rising senior at UC Berkeley, in a Facebook message. “We’re students and doctors and business persons. We’re friends and relational partners and parents and siblings.”

Dueñas said Quirk received multiple “hateful comments” for his introduction of the resolution, some of which referring to him as a “traitor” and “unpatriotic.” Quirk said in a press release that the negative comments he has received have affirmed for him the need to address this issue, since they have shown him what it is like to be threatened.

“I have to deal with these threats for only a short period of time,” Quirk said at a reception. “(Muslims) have to endure much more, every day.”

Contact Mira Chaplin at [email protected].