Columbus City Council resolves to root out Islamophobia

Guest Post by JVP-Central Ohio Chapter

When a Columbus City Councilperson announced a community “listening” meeting, JVP Central Ohio members went to present the councilperson with information about Islamophobia and to recommend that City Council adopt a resolution against it.  JVP members subsequently followed up monthly with the councilperson.

Six months later, the Councilperson’s office notified JVP Central Ohio that an interfaith roundtable in Council chambers was being organized to discuss Islamophobia the hour before the City Council would vote on a resolution against it.  JVP Central Ohio was asked to participate in this roundtable along with representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, and the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio.

The roundtable discussion drew over 200 community members, most of whom were Muslim.  The dominant message among those in attendance was that Islamophobia does not reflect community ideals and basic human values, and that a statement opposing it was an important first step toward justice in our community.

The resolution against Islamophobia was subsequently unanimously approved by the Columbus City Council.  A representative from CAIR was invited to the floor by the City Council to receive a copy of the resolution.  The CAIR representative then invited all of the members of the Muslim community present to stand behind him as he gave his statement.  It was a powerful message.

A local newspaper and television channel covered the events.

After the panel discussion, members of the Muslim community thanked JVP Central Ohio members for proposing the resolution.  They reported that knowing that leadership in the community supported them—and did so vocally and with the promise of further action—made them feel less alienated and vulnerable.

A well-respected community member, Mahmoud El-Yousseph, wrote a letter to the Editor of the Columbus Dispatch about the resolution.  He contrasted the resolution with an event in 2004 where a copy of the Quran, a rainbow flag, and a copy of decision in Roe vs. Wade were burned by “out-of-town hate group” on the steps of Columbus City Hall.  He took his sons to witness both events.

Full Text of the Resolution:

To Condemn the Rise of Religious Intolerance through Islamophobia and Display Support for the Muslim Community in the City Columbus.

WHERE AS, since its establishment, the City of Columbus has thrived on racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, and

WHERE AS, the City of Columbus is a hub for immigrants with almost 11% of residents being born outside the United States, and Muslims represent nearly 1.5% of the total estimated population of the City of Columbus, and

WHERE AS, Muslims are key members in the City of Columbus and are represented in all areas of the community, and play a role in our everyday society, and

WHERE AS, since the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks in December 2015, a trend of rising Islamophobia has presented itself in the United States, and

WHERE AS, the City of Columbus declares that there should not be a war on Islam, and rejects both discrimination against American Muslims and for those admitted to our country, now therefore

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF COLUMBUS:

That we, the Columbus City Council, hereby acknowledge the danger that Islamophobia poses to our American values of religious freedom and diversity; and that we stand firmly with our Muslim friends against Islamophobia in any and all forms.

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