- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2017

Muslim advocacy groups in Washington, D.C., honored federal lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Thursday for promoting religious pluralism and tolerance at a time of simmering political and social tensions in the U.S. toward Islam and Muslims.

Just over a week into Ramadan, celebrations are overshadowed following at least five terrorist attacks across the globe that have killed hundreds and left even more injured.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this happen,” said Rabiah Ahmed, media and public affairs director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which co-hosted the congressional iftar [evening meal] with the Pakistani American Political Action Comitee (PAKPAC).

“Last year during Ramadan it was a pretty violent month as well. What we’re experiencing now with these attacks and uptick [was] seen before. Muslims are concerned, and we’re perhaps more concerned than anyone else because of the way it impacts us.”

Ramadan is the monthlong Islamic holiday marked by daily fasts, prayer and contemplation that culminate in evening feasts.

Terrorist attacks have been carried out in the United Kingdom, Egypt, Baghdad, Kabul and Tehran over the past week.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for almost all of the attacks, but the veracity of its claims has not been confirmed.

Yet what is clear is that attackers frequently invoke the name of Allah, linking their actions to Islam and sowing fear and distrust among general populations toward Muslims.

It is important to honor those government leaders who stand up for the rights of religious minorities and share traditional Ramadan celebrations and experiences, Ms. Ahmed said.

“When these terrorists commit these acts of violence, they’re trying to create fear among Muslims and Islam,” she said.

“With each attack they commit, they create this false narrative that Islam and Muslims are at war with the West. With each attack they seem to convince more and more people — in terms of public perception — that drive anti-Muslim sentiment. That increases the hate crimes that we’re experiencing in this country.”

Thursday’s congressional iftar was the first hosted jointly by the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Pakistani American Political Action Committee.

Leaders honored as “Champions of Religious Freedom” include Reps. Mike Quigley, Illinois Democrat; Grace Meng, New York Democrat; Brian K. Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania Republican; and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat.

Of those honored, Mr. Quigley was recognized in part for his co-sponsorship of the SOLVE Act, which sought to block the use of federal funds from enforcing President Trump’s original executive order on a temporary travel ban for people from seven Muslim-majority nations.

The bill was largely symbolic as the executive order was blocked by federal appeals courts. When the revised travel ban was issued, Mr. Quigley joined 50 other representatives to offer amicus briefs to federal appeals courts, offering information in favor of upholding the block of the order.

“The American Muslim community represents our family, friends, neighbors, and allies, and I thank them for their vital contributions to all aspects of our society and culture,” Mr. Quigley said in an email to The Washington Times.

“Following an increase in incidents of religious discrimination, including hateful speech and violent actions, it is more important now than ever to unite around our differences rather than let them divide us further. I am honored to be recognized by the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and I will continue working to foster open-mindedness and understanding that ensures safety and opportunity for all people.”

• Laura Kelly can be reached at lkelly@washingtontimes.com.

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