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Let Muslim Voices Be Heard -- New Initiative Supports Scapegoated Groups

Shawn Morehead, program director for human justice and education
By Shawn Morehead, 
a lawyer and former teacher, and program director at The Trust, specializing in human justice and education.

New York’s racial, ethnic, and religious mix makes this an exhilarating place. Yet throughout our history, one group after another—from the Irish to the Jews to Latinos—has been scapegoated. These days, anti-Muslim sentiment targets Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities.

The New York Community Trust supports programs that guide recent immigrants on the path to residency or citizenship. We’ve done this for decades. We believe philanthropy needs to overcome its aversion to projects that seem controversial. This year, we joined the Ford Foundation and the New York Foundation to search for solutions to anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate crimes.

We heard from Muslim Americans who don’t want to be stereotyped. They’re eager to be recognized for who they are—doctors, teachers, shopkeepers. New Yorkers who want to make New York great.

A few weeks ago, we committed more than half a million dollars to support these New Yorkers and spread the word: A workshop will develop the voices of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian writers; a production company will create a video series, “The Secret Lives of Muslims,” spotlighting their accomplishments; a nonprofit group will train women leaders from these communities; and more. We thank donors such as LuEsther Mertz, who cared about human rights.

This work grows more urgent as violence and hateful speech splinter the country and the world. Most New Yorkers understand that Muslims are like everyone else—trying to support their families and pursue their dreams. Amid a presidential election that’s stirred talk of patrolling neighborhoods and banning Muslims’ travel to the U.S., we all need to speak up for our neighbors when they are wrongly vilified. 

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