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Muslim Day at the Capitol

By Karah Bailey | Staff Writer
On April 14, 2017

Muslim advocacy group leaders rallied at the Capitol Wednesday April 7 to address faith-based community concerns directly with legislators.

Florida is one of the 13 states affected by President Donald Trump’s travel ban that prohibited travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.  Section 7a of the ban serves to "expedite the completion and implementation of a biometric entry-exit tracking system for all travelers to the United States, as recommended by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States."  The impact of the ban strikes fear in the minds of American-born Muslims, immigrants and descendents alike.

One participant of the event who requested only to be referred to as Frieda said, "I'm scared. I don't want to get on the FBI's trouble-maker list.  I've been living all my life in the US."

Dr. Stacey Alderman, a Florida A&M University physical therapy graduate is married to an Egyptian.  "Although he's not a refugee, even with that simple program it makes his family scared to come here,” said Alderman

In 2016, Florida Department of Children and Families received 62,223 new immigration clients. Of those documented, 3,422 are refugees.  Thousands more attempt to survive illegally.  Because of the ban, citizens in the Muslim community face particular scrutiny.  Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, insists that,

"We don't do ourselves any justice when we put forward legislation that is hostile towards the heart of working immigrant community."

Smith advocates for the Florida Trust Act, aiming to better relationships between immigrant communities and the residing law enforcement.  In doing so, undocumented immigrants can report crimes witnessed or acted upon them without fear of deportation. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations documented a 500% increase of anti-Muslim hate crime in Florida.  Hassan Shibly, Chief Executive Director of CAIR says the rhetoric of recent legislation "legitimized fear and hatred of the American Muslim community and it enticed people frankly to enact that fear and hate into violence and into hate crimes." 

CAIR urges participant and communities at large to vote "No" on House Bill 427 which would reject funds for refugee assistance programs.  Shibly also said to say "No" on House Bill 697, which would limit the abilities of city officials to enforce sanctuary cities policies that currently protect undocumented immigrants.

If approved, HB 697 would require state, local government, and university officials to comply with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention requests, which directly opposes the objectives of the Florida Trust Act.

Muslim Day attendees say their purpose is simply to promote peace in accordance with the principles of their primary religious text.

Mubarak Dahir, of the American Muslim Democratic Caucus of Florida says, "My great hope and optimism is that I come to these rallies and meetings and I meet people who have no Middle Eastern blood, they're not Muslim, they're Americans like we all are, and they realize this isn't about someone from Egypt or Pakistan or Indonesia, this is about people from America."

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