New Jersey Gov. Phil Murthy declares January as Muslim Heritage Month
Community and faith leaders, who have rallied for the designation for several years, hailed the signing as a historic moment.
“As a state that has the highest percentage of Muslims in the nation, we are so overjoyed to have a month that celebrates and recognizes our community in a positive light and hope that this recognition further pushes the engagement of the Muslim community in society,” said Zainab Syed, president of American Muslims for Democracy, one of the groups that advocated for the measure.
Murphy signed the proclamation at Drumthwacket, the governor’s official residence in Princeton, during a celebration for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.
“I am proud to designate January of each year as Muslim Heritage Month, as it will shine a light on the rich histories, cultures and shared principles of Muslim Americans,” Murphy said. “New Jersey takes great pride in its diversity, and we will continue to recognize and celebrate the positive impact Muslims have made, and continue to make, to the advancement of this state.”
The governor’s Eid gathering drew Muslim community leaders, clergy and elected officials from across the state. This year, they were jubilant over the news of Muslim Heritage Month.
“For too long, we’ve seen damaging and irresponsible depictions of Muslims,” said Selaedin Maksut, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “These narratives have tangible consequences, but now we will be seeing the counter and, hopefully soon, prevailing narrative: one that highlights, celebrates and acknowledges the American Muslim community in New Jersey.”
A joint resolution in favor of Muslim Heritage Month got unanimous support from lawmakers before it was sent to the governor. The state Assembly passed the resolution in March, and the Senate did the same in February. The resolution asks Murphy to issue a proclamation each year calling upon local government agencies and interested organizations to observe the month with ceremonies, activities and educational programs.
In addition to American Muslims for Democracy and CAIR-NJ, the committee that worked to pass the measure included New Jersey Muslims for Progress, the Islamic Center of Morris County, the Council of Imams of New Jersey, NJ Sisterhood, Muslim League of Voters and BAWDI. Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer and Prospect Park Mayor Mohammad Khairullah also served on the committee.
More than 70 organizations, schools and mosques across the state also supported the state resolution.
Supporters hope the measure will promote greater understanding of Muslim heritage, recognize Muslim Americans’ contributions and combat Islamophobia. In New Jersey, Muslims make up 3% of the population, or about 300,000 people. They come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and are involved in politics, education, law enforcement, business, culture and other aspects of civic life.