Muslim day: A push against stigma, xenophobia and bullying at Kentucky’s capitol


Muslim Day at the Capitol, Wednesday, January 22. A handful of men with signs protested the event.

Akhira Umar

A week ago on Wednesday, January 22, Frankfort hosted the first Muslim Day at the Capitol. Muslims from all over Kentucky, young and old, made their way to the Capitol not only to celebrate Islam but to also educate their representatives and senators about Islam and how that affects the legislation they stand by.

One of the agendas of Muslim Day was for Muslims to discuss bills they support and oppose. Two bills that were opposed were Senate Bill 1, which restricts dreamers and children of undocumented immigrants from seeking higher education, and Senate Bill 2, which requires a photo ID to vote. Three bills supported by Muslim Day were Senate Bill 48, House Bill 138 and House Bill 30. The first would allow people with a felony to vote and the second seeks to improve the maternity fertility rate, especially among women of color.

But the star of the day was House Bill 30, an anti-bullying bill for schools sponsored by Josie Raymond (D-Jefferson). The bill expands the definition of bullying to include cyberbullying and bullying off schools grounds. It also requires schools to have procedure for restoring said bullied student’s sense of safety. Fittingly, students from Islamic schools joined in the effort.

However, the historic occasion was marred by a handful of individuals. Three men armed with large signs and a microphone spent their day protesting the event and Islam as a whole.

I had the misfortune of running into these men before they set up camp at the entrance to the Capitol building. Before I could even greet them, the first words out of their mouths were, “You’re going to hell!” That followed with a slew of other insults and prompts for me to give myself to Jesus. As someone who has faced the annual religious demonstrators by White Hall, I can’t say I was surprised by their presence. It’s sad to say that I actually expected more protesters.

Even though I expected such a scene, I can’t say the same for the kids who came. Though I’ve steeled myself against threats of hellfire and damnation, I don’t know how hearing such hate affected those kids. For some, that might have been the first time they felt unsafe simply because of their religion.

And that’s exactly what Muslim Day was trying to combat. This kind of behavior shouldn’t be the expectation or the norm. Though we live in a country that values free speech, this should encourage civil debates and discussions, not just blasting hate at whatever you disagree with. We came to the state capitol to respectfully voice our beliefs and were confronted with unapologetic disrespect, though it must be said that those three men seemed to be the only ones who objected to our presence.

Though it is extremely frustrating and more than disheartening to be judged and mistreated due to ignorance and bigotry, it just goes to show where more effort needs to be placed. We, as a society, need to open our hearts and ears to more conversations about our beliefs. Yes, we may differ, but we also share so much in common.

If only those demonstrators had been willing to talk to us like our representatives and senators did, maybe we could have built more understanding and bridged a divide in the process.