Speak Justice: Stories from Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Organizers

March 27, 2019
By Altaf Rahamatulla

Two years ago, thousands of New Yorkers gathered at Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy airport to stand up for the rights of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians following the announcement of the initial version of the refugee and travel ban—the Trump administration’s first official salvo in xenophobic policymaking. Coordinated by a cohort of New York City social justice and immigrant rights organizations and led by organizers representing communities most affected, the demonstration was a powerful display of solidarity. Since that time, we’ve seen a rise in hate violenceanti-immigrant political rhetoric, and discrimination. An onslaught of destructive federal policies is tearing families apart, criminalizing immigrants, and expanding detention, surveillance, and enforcement.Our new series—Speak Justice: Stories from Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Organizers—profiles a new wave of courageous activists and civil rights pioneers from Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities who are organizing in the face of institutional and systemic challenges, galvanizing movements, activating greater levels of civic engagement and impact, and sparking new partnerships.

In their own words, organizers describe the issues Muslim, Arab, and South Asian New Yorkers are facing. The interviews capture:

  • the incredible ethnic and racial diversity of Muslim New Yorkers;
  • resilience in the face of mounting political attacks, bias, and hate;
  • how the field of Muslim, Arab, and South Asian advocacy and organizing is deepening even as it has been in rapid-response mode reacting to backlash in the past two decades;
  • the prime significance of the leadership of women and youth in the movement;
  • how these issues are not singular and touch on civil liberties, racial and gender justice, immigrant and LGBTQ rights, and economic and educational opportunity;
  • how narrative and communications efforts foster understanding and inclusion; and
  • the ways groups have been using leadership development, local relationship-building, and grassroots organizing to strengthen the civic engagement capacity of emerging demographic groups and communities of color throughout New York City.

Ultimately, this is not just about the experience of specific groups, but about us as New Yorkers, and where we are heading as a nation. How movements respond today will determine if we can build an inclusive, democratic future. As Murad Awawdeh, the Vice President of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalitionpoints out, “This is our New York – a city that stands up for everyone.”

Our first video features Reem Ramadan, lead organizer at Arab American Association of New York (AAANY), where she heads advocacy and civic engagement efforts related to anti-Muslim bigotry, immigrant rights, and police reform. Based in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, AAANY supports and empowers the Arab immigrant and Arab-American community by providing services to help them adjust to their new home and become active members of society.