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Coalition Forms In San Diego To Fight Islamophobia

Hugh Mohammad of the Nation of Islam speaks at the press conference, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.
Jean Guerrero
Hugh Mohammad of the Nation of Islam speaks at the press conference, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017.
Coalition Forms In San Diego To Fight Islamophobia
Coalition Forms In San Diego To Fight Islamophobia GUEST:Hanif Mohebi, executive director, San Diego chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations

Although they are not -- although they are not deported. The band focuses on seven predominantly Muslim countries. There are some the fear it could be a first step toward restrictions on American citizens and residents who are Muslim. The Council on American Islamic relations has gathered a coalition of concerned organizations into a group called the form on religious freedom. The first group town hall meeting is tomorrow. Joining me is the executive director. Welcome. Thank you President Trump has said many times that this is not a Muslim Van. Make the connection force if you will between the president's executive order and the concerns expressed by the American Muslim community. A couple of points. In his election campaign, he did repeat a Muslim Van. That is not something we created. That is the word he is used. In response to that, this executive order comes and specifically target some of the countries that are majority Muslim and also countries that don't have many Thais financially with. The way I see it is that, it is very targeted to basically give that promise that he gave which was the Muslim Van. What have you been hearing from members of the Muslim community? Many are stressed. There is fear and anger. There's also a lot of hope. Tell me about the hope. We look at this and said, every time something negative happens, thousands of our neighbors, community members and friends get up and say, we are with you. What can we do. Then, it just disappears afterwards. We brought about the coalition that we call the form on religious freedom. That essentially says no. If you really, truly want to contribute and help, then take action. It is not just about now. It is about the future. I want to talk to you before we get into the form about the future. You talked about the Muslim American community and many others who should be concerned about this. What kinds of things do you fear may be coming next from this administration? There is a lot of fear for many different communities. We have the immigrant community, refugees, the brothers and sisters I documented and many others that are fearful. The LB GTQ community. A lot may be coming in the future. Targeting specifically for example, the Muslim activists and organizations that are on the forefront and fighting this bigotry and hate. You said, at the time of the executive order that was revealed, there were many who contacted you and said we are on your side. We would like to do something to help. From that springs this new form of religious freedom. Who is a part of it and what is its focus. It is a very broad coalition. I love that we have people from the government agencies and programs, we have Tony Atkin that has endorsed Lori González. Many council members. We have government officials. We also have people from the education. Board members from the school board have been -- endorsed us. Alliance San Diego, interfaith for justice. Believe -- the list goes on and on. It is beautiful because for the first time in history of our community here in San Diego, the coalition is being built to specifically make sure that the American Muslim community is not marginalized, targeted or hated. Recent polls found nearly half of Americans supported President Trump's travel ban. Why do you think that support is so high? There is a lot of ignorance out there. That ignorance is used by politicians to gain votes, power and unfortunately they are exploited. That fire is being fueled by people that are around Trump himself. I think we need to realize that it is systemic and we need to come up with answers that are systematic to deal with the problem. Can you give me an example? A systematic answer to deal with this misunderstanding? That would be, instead of just going, with all due respect and protesters and protests have their place and they are good. If we have no strategy with it, it does no good. If we, for example it director communities to hold teachings and educational forums and community town halls and bring people to talk about this, I think that would in a systematic way, not just today, not just because of this event, not just under this president but continuously and consistently until we win essentially and this ignorance is turned into solidarity. Do you see this town hall meeting as a first step toward that? Absolutely. I think it is for many people. Maybe this is the first time people have heard that there is a town hall welcoming them to come and join and ask their questions. If they are concerned about any of their community members whether they are Muslim, immigrant, refugees, undocumented, come and ask those questions. There are sincere people that are concerned about safety and security as we should all be. At the same time, it is very important for us to understand where we are and what the problems are so that we do not repeat negative history that we already had. That is targeting the vulnerable or a specific community and blaming all of our problems on those communities. I have been speaking with the Executive Director of care San Diego. The form on religious freedom holds a town hall meeting tomorrow night at 6:30 at the Islamic center in Clairemont. Thank you.

Coalition Forms In San Diego To Fight Islamophobia
The San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced Tuesday the formation of a "Forum on Religious Freedom" in response to President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.

San Diego faith and civil rights leaders are uniting against President Trump’s executive order that places a temporary ban on refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

The San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced Tuesday the formation of a "Forum on Religious Freedom" coalition that will fight Islamophobia in San Diego.

The coalition includes more than 20 faith and civil rights groups as well as clergy, elected officials, businesses, educational institutions and individuals, according to CAIR San Diego Executive Director Hanif Mohebi.

"The focus of this group is going to be to make sure that the American-Muslim community is not marginalized, that the American-Muslim community is not targeted, that hate, bigotry, Islamophobia is not accepted," Mohebi said at a news conference at a Clairemont area mosque.

Trump's order, signed Friday, suspends all refugee entries for 120 days, indefinitely blocks all Syrian refugees, and bars entry for 90 days to all immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Mohebi said the order discriminates against Muslims and fuels bigotry against Muslim-Americans.

"We are going to work day and night, beyond this presidency to make sure that such things never happen to begin with," he said, while flanked by dozens of coalition members who have pledged support for the forum.

Mohebi said they would be organizing educational forums and town hall meetings, reaching out to legislators, setting up an emergency hotline and establishing a $200,000 legal fund.

"We're already getting calls from national, from our other chapters, to duplicate this effort, but it is a project that has started in San Diego," Mohebi said.

CAIR is the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization.

"Today we are sending a strong and powerful message like many other communities around the nation to our administration, just to tell them that what you are doing is wrong," said Imam Taha Hassane of the Islamic Center of San Diego. "It's not acceptable, and we can never allow such discriminatory policies to take place in our nation."

Andrea Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego, said her organization was standing up with its Muslim brothers and sisters because standing down was not an option.

"Bowing down is not an option in a time such as we're living, where our very constitutional principles — the freedom of religion, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of speech — are at stake," Guerrero said. "When we have a president who dares to try to strip those things away from us, who seeks to divide us, who seeks to exclude us, we must stand up."

The Forum on Religious Freedom has been endorsed by Alliance San Diego, NAACP San Diego and ACLU San Diego.

Religious leaders who spoke at the press conference repeatedly emphasized the importance of embracing refugees in accordance with the mandates of their holy books.

"We should not just be a country that accepts Christians," said Shane Harris, president of the National Action Network in San Diego. "We should be a country that accepts all people. I challenge the hard-right Christians and theologians to actually come out of your temples and stand with the people."

A town hall meeting is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the San Diego Islamic Center in Clairemont.

CAIR San Diego asked Muslim community members who believe their rights have been violated to contact local police and CAIR San Diego at (858) 278-4547 or file a report online at: ca.cair.com/sandiego.