Advocating to Reduce Hate Crimes and Provide COVID-19 Support for Muslim New Yorkers
Through our Brooklyn COVID-19 Response Fund’s Community-led Social Change grants, we are investing $2.5 million through 2026 to achieve long-term systems change to dismantle and reimagine policies and systems that have prevented Black, Indigenous and other communities of color from thriving both prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of our seven grantee partners is the Muslim Community Network (MCN), an organization that aims to shape public understanding of Muslim identity while supporting members of New York’s Muslim community through civic education and leadership development.
MCN provides services, information, and resources to Muslim New Yorkers of all ages, and strives for a welcoming, safe, and affirming city. Among the programming they offer are workshops to promote self-defense and to address hate crimes, and to create spaces specifically for Muslim women. MCN also advocates for youth in the community, partnering with schools in and beyond New York to hold college fairs, leadership programs, and fellowships to make civic education available to Muslim students.
We had the opportunity to speak with Rana Abo-Omar, MCN’s Civic Education Manager, and are excited to highlight a few of their recent initiatives below. We’re proud to partner with Muslim Community Network as they work to make Brooklyn a safer, healthier, and more inclusive place.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Muslim Community Network has been working to make COVID-19 safety and resources accessible to Muslim New Yorkers. MCN created a special hotline to meet the needs of community members whose immigration status, language differences, or computer and internet access may present challenges to seeking healthcare services or information.
“Prior to the pandemic we were used to being on the ground, in communities where we're citywide, and a lot of our programming was in-person in community centers and mosques. When we went remote and started doing things online, we asked ourselves, how do you get people online too? So we launched a COVID-19 hotline, which community members could call and we could direct them to different services.”
— Rana Abo-Omar, Civic Education Manager
Muslim Community Network
The hotline is free to use and available in eight languages: Arabic, Bambara, Bengali, Farsi, French, Hindi, Soninke, and Urdu, at 888-409-0063.
From soup kitchens to self-defense workshops, MCN is dedicated to assisting and uplifting Muslim New Yorkers usinga holistic approach that centers racial justice. Their community engagement programming includes a Hate Crime Prevention Program, Muslim Women’s Civic Empowerment Program, Emerging Peacemakers Program, and a Youth Leaders Civic Fellowship—through which, Rana notes, “Students are encouraged to have discussions around police brutality and prison reform, and criminal justice reform. Another part of our youth work is social identity building, recognizing who you are, and being confident in who you are and all the social identities that you possess and project to the world. That's something that I didn't have growing up and I wish I did.”
In addition to these programs, MCN’s community engagement often also comes in the form of events for larger audiences, including sponsoring the World Refugee Day Community Arts Festival earlier this summer.
Hate Crime Prevention Report
This summer, MCN released a Hate Crimes Prevention Report that presents data from over 200 surveys and highlights the discrimination that Muslims face. The survey indicates that 49% of Muslim New Yorkers have experienced hate crimes, and 73% have witnessed hate crimes. The report also notes that 51% of Muslim families with children in K-12 public schools report a child of theirs has been bullied for their faith in the past year. Rana speaks to the discrimination faced by younger community members, saying “There are definitely instances and stories that I've heard from students where they feel excluded in schools because of their identity as Muslims.” Community members were surveyed on recommended policies and practices that could address hate crimes, and 52.2% of respondents wanted more education on Muslims and Islam in school, work, and other public institutions.
Muslim Community Network recently held a press conference to address the details of their Hate Crimes Prevention Report and advocate for the adoption of Resolution 1257, a policy that will provide education and resources about religious minorities in public schools. The report also offers additional policy recommendations to reduce hate crimes, including:
More support from politicians
Community and police patrols
In addition to improving the lives of individual Muslims as well as the overall safety of New York’s Muslim community, MCN provides seeks to create space in the political world for Muslims.
As Rana explained, “There's definitely spaces where [Muslims] don't feel included, and there are spaces where we do. I think some of those spaces where we are excluded are in City government and government in general…but some of the spaces that we do feel included are our community centers, in our mosques and our neighborhoods.” By bringing their work to spaces that are part of Muslims’ daily lives, MCN is able to successfully engage more community members.
For example, members of the Muslim Women’s Civic Empowerment Program recently held a back-to-school event at a local mosque where they invited families to get school supplies for their children while also phone banking. As part of the Our City, Our Vote and APA VOICE Coalition, Muslim Community Network has already succeeded in registering 73 community members to vote.
As part of their advocacy work, MCN created and shared a petition urging public action against gun violence. The Faith Leaders Letter demands for the immediate ban of assault weapons/ghost guns, the passing of H.R.8 to require universal background checks, raising the age minimum to purchase assault rifles, and strengthening buy-back laws.
Muslim Community Network also recently participated in the anti-violence campaign to close Riker’s Island, where Community Education Coordinator Reda Taleb stood in solidarity with activists.
Join Us in Investing in Community-Led Change
Muslim Community Network’s advocacy work to reduce hate crimes, engage the community, and provide COVID-19 support for Muslim New Yorkers is critical to long-lasting change that centers racial justice. Learn more about our Community-led Social Change partners and support this vital work with a donation to our Community Fund.