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California Recognizes August as Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month

The California State Assembly voted Monday to pass a resolution that officially recognizes August 2016 as Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month.
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The California State Assembly voted Monday to pass a resolution that officially recognizes August 2016 as Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month.

The resolution comes at a time of increased anti-Muslim rhetoric, according to a recent civil rights report compiled by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

HR-59, introduced by California Assemblymember Bill Quirk in June after Quirk was approached by a community activist on the issue, was officially passed Aug. 1 with bipartisan support.

“Muslim Americans have made contributions to education, science, entertainment and medicine both nationally and globally,” Quirk told NBC News in an email. “Unfortunately, the Muslim community has been, and continues to be, the target of harassment, discrimination and assaults.”

He added, “It is appropriate to acknowledge and promote awareness of the myriad invaluable contributions of Muslim Americans in California and across the country, and extend to them the respect and camaraderie every American deserves."

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CAIR-Sacramento Valley Executive Director Basim Elkarra told NBC News that the passing of the resolution represented a day of hope for the Muslim-American community. He explained that Muslims contribute greatly to the diversity of the nation and the state, carrying various key roles throughout the state of California as engineers, doctors, law enforcement officials, and more.

“Muslims participate in every facet of life in California and for them to be appreciated for their contributions ... it’s very hopeful for the community when the community is under siege in this election cycle,” Elkarra said.

Earlier this week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested that Ghazala Khan, the mother of a U.S. Army captain who was killed in Iraq, did not speak on stage at the Democratic National Convention because "maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say." In response, Muslim-American women on Twitter began using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow to challenge stereotypes and anti-Muslim rhetoric.

RELATED: On Twitter, Muslim-American Women Ask Trump: #CanYouHearUsNow?

Trump has since responded, posting to Twitter on Monday, "Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same - Nice!"

At the Muslim Appreciation and Awareness Month Celebration in Sacramento, California, on Monday, Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR - San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA), emphasized the resolution’s timeliness given recent events on the 2016 campaign trail.

“It's particularly important for me as a Muslim woman to be speaking out and to be joined by my colleagues here ... to send a strong message that we are speaking out for ourselves, that we are proud residents of this state, and that we are stronger when we stand together,”Billoo said.

This is not the first time California has designated a month to recognize the contributions of the Muslim-American community. In 2014, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a resolution declaring July 2014 as Muslim American Heritage Month.

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