PHILADELPHIA, PA − February 18, 2016 − Following services at Al-Aqsa Mosque, State Senator Art Haywood and Philadelphia Councilman David Oh signed a pledge to promote tolerance and speak out against bigotry towards Muslims and Arabs. Signatories of the Arab American Institute’s Pledge to Combat Bigotry commit to supporting civil discourse, refraining from participating in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim speech or actions, and standing up to religious discrimination.
“Those of all faiths and creeds are welcome in our communities, and must be safe and protected here in Pennsylvania,” Haywood said. “Threats to religious tolerance based on unfounded fear have no place in our commonwealth. It is up to all of us to ensure that hate has no home here.” The Southern Poverty Law Center found a fourteen percent rise in hate and extremist groups in the United States in 2015. The organization found that Pennsylvania has the fifth highest number of hate groups in the nation.
The Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, where Haywood and Oh signed the Anti-Bigotry pledge, was desecrated with a severed pig’s head in December. Oh introduced a City Council Resolution that month in support of the Muslim community and condemning the act as hateful and offensive. “I join leaders of the Muslim Community and leaders of our City in condemning this senseless effort to intimidate and discriminate against religion,” said Oh. “I am appreciative of the opportunity to sign a pledge in support of our Muslim community.”
Haywood warned of the dangers of increasing anti-Muslim attitudes and acts in Pennsylvania. “Not just our own constitution, but international convention is unanimous in condemning religious discrimination,” said Haywood. “If the weight of our own conscience does not make this tenet clear, then history certainly illustrates the depth of destruction that religious intolerance is capable of provoking.”
Contact: Melissa Ostroff