Council funds Muslim assistance agencies 1

Councilman Daneek Miller, left, and Council Speaker Corey Johnson chat with Islamic Circle of North America-New York Secretary General Muhammad Rahman in Jamaica at the announcement of the Council’s $250,000 Muslim Empowerment Initiative.

City Council members were in Jamaica on Aug. 21 to announce grants to 14 community-based agencies that serve the city’s Muslim community.

Councilman Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) and Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) attended Jumu’ah prayers at the Islamic Circle of North America’s New York Chapter in Jamaica to officially announce the awarding of $250,000 for the initiative.

Miller, the lone Muslim on the 51-member Council, said between 400,000 and 800,000 Muslims live in the New York City metropolitan area.

The initiative, done in collaboration with the New York Immigration Coalition, will enable culturally and linguistically competent nonprofit groups to educate Muslim New Yorkers on their fundamental rights, conduct case management and provide referrals for various legal, social and healthcare services.

Miller, in a statement put out by his office, said he considers those to be especially important given aspects of the recent political and social climate.

“The policies flowing from Washington D.C. of late have served to marginalize and malign our country’s immigrants and minorities,” Miller said. “In response, this Council has redoubled its efforts to celebrate diversity, promote inclusion, and preserve fundamental rights for all New Yorkers; and the Muslim Empowerment Initiative, in particular, represents our latest commitment to stand squarely with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

He and the speaker also cited statistics released by the FBI last year in which reported incidents of hate crimes against Muslims rose 19 percent in 2016 compared to the previous year, which itself saw a 67 percent rise over 2014 as tensions in the community deepened.

Organizations receiving $20,000 grants include the Arab American Association of New York, Inc.; The Arab-American Family Support Center; African Communities Together, Inc.; Turning Point for Women and Families; African Services Committee; South Asian Youth Action, Inc.; India Home, Inc.; and Islamic Circle of North America.

Grants of $15,000 are going to the Council on American-Islamic Relations of New York Inc.; Chhaya Community Development Corporation; Council of Peoples Organization, Inc.; Muslim Community Network; Desis Rising Up & Moving; and the Muslim American Society.

Johnson believes the funding is a smart investment.

“Muslim advocacy groups have served as cornerstones in their communities through educational services, outreach to the needy and legal referrals for years,” he said. “We are so thankful for the work they do and are proud to help enhance their efforts through funding from the City Council.”

Muhammad Rahman, the ICNA secretary general, said the money will help with numerous community engagement activities, such as Iftar in the Park and open space Eid prayer services.

Albert Fox Cahn, CAIR-New York’s legal director, also said the programs are increasingly needed to counter discrimination, harassment and the increase in hate crimes.

“We hope to work closely with elected officials at every level of government to ensure that New York lives up to its promise of being where all religions are welcome,” he said in Miller’s press release.

While public grant money often comes with restrictions or strings that generally can be weathered by secular and cultural organizations, Cahn told the Chronicle in a telephone interview that he does not believe the funding has the potential to cause unforeseen problems down the road for religious groups.

“I think this is very straight forward so there won’t be any unintended consequences,” he said. “I don’t see any risk.”

Cahn also did not speculate on whether the Muslim community might gain more benefit by giving larger slices of the pie to fewer organizations. He said if anything, the allocations as approved only demonstrate the great need within the community for the various kinds of help provided by the different organizations.

“I’m not going to second-guess the Council on that,” he said.

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