Our mission to uplift American Muslim voices takes many forms, especially within our multi-faith work. Part of our approach is involving faith leaders at every level of civic society. In the 87th Texas legislature, we worked closely with state representatives to introduce pieces of legislation that brought the faith community together and situated the Muslim community as thought leaders and advocates in the spaces of child welfare and religious liberty.
Earlier this legislative session, our team reached out to Representative Donna Howard of Austin to introduce a resolution formally recognizing Ramadan 2021(hyperlink text) in Texas and she was eager to move it forward. After the resolution was introduced it was unanimously adopted by the Texas House of Representatives.
While a formal recognition does not change law, we believe it is vital for legislators and faith communities to work together. HR 454 is proof that positive change is made possible when we work together.
State of the Unity: Fort Bend County Electeds and Bipartisanship
In February of 2021, we virtually hosted local elected officials for an open, bi-partisan conversation to strengthen relationships and unite in shared goals. Elected officials came together via-zoom to discuss what bi-partisanship means to them, how they aim to increase bi-partisanship, and learn more about their colleagues.
A Pew Research Center study found that 50% of Republican and 46% of Democratic congresspeople described that discussions with members of opposing parties are “stressful and frustrating”. Because of the worrying nature of these statistics, we wanted to ensure that our local elected officials are outliers. Instead of walking away from conversations disgruntled, we wanted them to feel enlightened, creating empathy with every discussion.
Focusing on Faith & Our Officers
In March of 2021, we partnered with the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA) to host a 45 minute virtual event. The event gathered faith leaders in the greater Houston area to provide suggestions and recommendations to the officers that serve their communities. This event aimed to form a relationship between officers and faith leaders from mosques, churches, and synagogues asking: what should the future of policing look like?
The discussion highlighted the perspectives of faith leaders and law enforcement practices and policies, barriers to positive interactions, community collaboration, immigrant perspectives, and so on. Participants were encouraged to share their personal stories in an effort to identify opportunities to improve public safety and cooperation.
When many families were told they may have to abandon their homes in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Bend County faith leaders sprung to action. Together, 50 faith leaders representing churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples within Fort Bend County came together to ask the commissioners court to expand the budget for rental and utility assistance, PPE for residents, and to extend the eviction moratorium. Through their leadership, the voices of families across the county were amplified, and the commissioner’s court expanded the budget from $5M to $19.1M.
Faith Holidays for City Staff
Many religious minorities are forced to spend their holidays with the stress of requesting time off for their unrecognized religious holiday. Recently, Council Member Letitia Plummer proposed a policy that provided optional religious holidays for Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu faith communities for the days of Eid ul-Fitr, Eid ul-Adha, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, Vaisakhi, Holi, and Diwali. Over 20 faith leaders authored a letter to Mayor Sylvester Turner explaining the social, religious, and cultural importance of facilitating optional holidays.
In the wake of the brutal murder of Mr. George Floys in the summer of 2020, Rabbis and Imams across Houston came together to voice their concerns. Over 20 Imams and 20 Rabbis authored a letter to Mayor Turner, Houston Council Members, and Police Chief Art Acevedo discussing the importance of police reform. Specifically, the faith leaders called for the expansion of the Independent Police Oversight Board and further diversity and de-escalation training. This letter carried the hurt, fear, and perseverance of their congregations, connecting them with the elected officials in their community.
In The News
Houston Chronicle – As anti-Semitism rises, Houston faith leaders seek resolution through unity
Houston Chronicle – Christmas event unites Jews, Muslims
Our Approach To Religious Freedom
Snapshot of our work:
- Led a coalition of faith leaders to positively impact rental assistance in Fort Bend County
- Worked with the City of Houston to list optional religious holidays for city employees
- Hosted a virtual event for a bipartisan group of elected officials to discuss the importance of bipartisanship in today’s political climate
- Partnered with the Texas Municipal Police Associate to host an event in which police and community leaders could discuss ways to strengthen relationships