Take on Hate campaign takes on bias against Muslims

Photo courtesy of Shaffwan Ahmed
National Network for Arab American Communities Director Nadia Tonova speaks during the ACCESS “Take on Hate” campaign kickoff event at the Cadillac Place Building in Detroit June 23. The NNAAC, a project of ACCESS, launched the campaign to challenge cultural acceptability of discrimination toward Arab Americans.

DEARBORN — The National Network for Arab American Communities, a project of ACCESS, launched a grassroots
campaign June 23 to challenge prejudice against and misconceptions of Muslims and Arab Americans.

Held at the offices of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, at Cadillac Place, the launch brought together civil rights organizations, members of the Arab American community, policymakers and supporters, committed to addressing discriminatory behavior toward Arab Americans and to standing up for change.

According to a report released by the FBI, anti-Islamic incidents were the second least reported hate crimes prior to 9/11; following the attacks, they became the second highest reported incidents, with a growth of 1,600 percent.

“It’s time to confront the ‘acceptable bigotry’ toward Arab Americans,” said Nadia Tonova, director of National Network for Arab American Communities.

“Judgment, profiling, slandering, making jokes — no matter how it’s delivered, it’s still hate. It’s still happening. It’s still wrong.

“Take on Hate moves us closer to being a nation that upholds dignity and equality for all — regardless
of national origin, ethnicity or religion.”

NNAAC officials cited recent examples of both hate and institutional discrimination toward Arab and Muslim Americans which include unwarranted bank account closures across metropolitan Detroit, the burning of Qurans near a mosque in Dearborn, and what the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found to be discriminatory hiring practices against Arab Americans within a Dearborn Heights school district last year.

Take on Hate aims to achieve social change, not only through public education, media and coalition building, but also by providing a platform for Arab Americans to speak up and inspire policy change that challenges institutional discrimination and protects the rights of all communities.

The Detroit launch of the campaign was held in commemoration of the 51st anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “Walk to Freedom,” in Detroit, and was the largest civil rights demonstration ever organized in the United States at the time, prior to King’s march on Washington D.C.

“For more than 50 years, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights has been responsible for enforcing civil rights laws and working to prevent discrimination,” said Matthew Wesaw, director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

“The Take on Hate campaign is a great opportunity to say loud and clear that the consequences of hate are real, and to tell victims of discrimination that we stand at the ready to investigate any violation of their civil rights.”

The Take on Hate campaign was launched nationally in Washington, D.C., in March and in San Francisco in April. NNAAC plans to launch the campaign in New York and Chicago later this summer.

As TAKE ON HATE continues to roll out, it will mobilize support from within and outside Arab American communities to address the injustices, bias and hate this population faces daily – whether at work, home or play.

For more information on the campaign, go to www.takeonhate.org.