June 22, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Take on Hate campaign fighting bias against Muslims reaches Detroit

Arab and Muslim anti-discrimination campaign begins

The national effort focuses on public education, media outreach and coalition building as well as legislative reforms. )

A national campaign that aims to challenge discrimination and stereotyping of Arab-Americans and Muslims launches Monday in Detroit.

Several groups will gather at the office of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights in the Cadillac Building to kick off the Take on Hate campaign. The launch coincides with the 51st anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Walk to Freedom in Detroit.

Led by the National Network for Arab American Communities, the effort focuses on public education, media outreach and coalition building as well as legislative reforms.

“It gives Arabs and Muslims and our allies a way to come together and call out those things when we see them,” said Nadia Tonova, director of the network, a project of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services. “That way we can open the conversation and change the narrative to let people know it’s wrong.”

Other partners include the Michigan branches of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Arab-American Civil Rights League.

The Take on Hate campaign was launched nationally in March in Washington, D.C., and in April in San Francisco. Other campaigns in New York and Chicago will launch later this summer.

The MLK date was “a key tie-in for the launch of the effort in Detroit because it was on this exact day where Dr. King told over 100,000 people that it was time for the government and society to get serious about providing opportunities and parity in employment, education, housing and the overall quality of life for persons of color,” said Diana Hussein, a representative for the National Network for Arab American Communities, an ACCESS project.

“This campaign will inspire real social and policy change that addresses the perception of and hateful behavior toward the Arab and Muslim American community, including Arab and Muslim refugees.”

The next event in Metro Detroit will be in July, with the screening of “The Citizen” and a forum afterward, Hussein said.

Metro Detroit has one of the country’s largest concentrations of Arabs and people tracing their roots to the Middle East.

“I think that Arabs and Muslims, a lot of times, we are negatively portrayed in the media,” Tonova said. “If that’s all the exposure we get, you’ll never really know us.”

The campaign will be tackling issues like the formation of a federal hate crime investigation task force, the creation of an act to end racial profiling and the promotion of immigration reform. Different cultural and heritage events will be held in communities, and diversity training and outreach to employers and schools are also priorities, Tonova said.

“People are good at their core,” she said. “When they understand that (something is) a bias or stereotype, they will come around and do the right thing.”

The campaign encourages mobilizing online at the hashtag #TAKEONHATE. For information on the campaign, go to www.takeonhate.org.

lrazzaq@detroitnews.com
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