The Columbus City Council on Monday unanimously passed a resolution condemning Islamophobia and declaring support for the Islamic community in the city.
“Our city of Columbus is very proud of our diversity, and this resolution was taking a stand against a lot of rhetoric nationally and in the state of Ohio,” Councilmember Michael Stinziano, who introduced the resolution, told NBC News.
The resolution comes as Muslims across the country have seen a spike in intimidation, discrimination, and harassment, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In Ohio, the state’s chapter of CAIR is currently representing 60 clients who have faced discrimination, its largest number of cases since the chapter was founded in 1998, according to one of the organization's attorneys.
“And that’s not the number of incidents reported, that’s just the number we’re representing,” Roman Iqbal, CAIR Ohio staff attorney, told NBC News.
Among cases CAIR Ohio is currently working include an employment discrimination complaint alleging that the police department refused to allow female police officers to wear head scarves. Iqbal said other cases involve individuals who were terminated because they wanted to pray, while others have reported housing discrimination.
With all the current cases, Iqbal said CAIR is pleased with the city council’s decision on Monday.
“I hope that this resolution lowers the anti-Muslim sentiment, which unfortunately has been on the rise this year. And we hope people understand that Muslims belongs in Columbus: They’re coworkers, neighbors and friends," Iqbal said. "We thank the city council for standing up for Muslims, [who] have a position in Columbus and should be treated with respect, just like any other community in Columbus."
The idea for the resolution, Stinziano said, stemmed from the Jewish Voice for Peace of Central Ohio, who told him during his regular weekly community hours that it was something the city should do.
“I’m proud to have the resolution passed. I was very encouraged by tremendous support from members of not only Muslim community, but that of many other faith communities in the city of Columbus,” he said.
Before Monday’s city council meeting, a roundtable discussion highlighted Columbus’ interfaith community’s support for the resolution and allowed other community members to share what the resolution means to them, Stinziano said.
“Columbus is a stronger city because of the incredible diversity of our residents," Councilmember Elizabeth Brown, co-sponsor of the legislation, said before the roundtable took place. "We reject the hateful rhetoric about Muslims that some use in a cynical attempt to divide our communities for political advantage. We know that the Muslim community loves our city, and we are glad to have the chance for discussion about how we continue to build an inclusive Columbus.”
Hours after the resolution passed, subsequent steps to enhance its symbolic nature hadn’t yet been finalized. Some suggestions that have been made, however, include additional cultural training and possibly a school holiday, Stinziano said.