Program building support, opportunity for Muslims and immigrants in our community

Pictured: An attendee speaking at the Bystander Training.

King County is committed to ensuring the safety and health of all its residents. This can be done in many different ways, including the recent partnership with the City of Seattle and the Seattle Foundation to provide critical services to immigrants and refugees. This partnership created funding for programs and services, titled the Resilience Fund, to help vulnerable residents whose health, safety and human rights are at risk.

The purpose of the Resilience Fund is to support community-based nonprofits who want to address unanticipated and emerging challenges that impact immigrant and refugee communities in our region. These challenges include access to information, support, legal guidance, organizing, and advocacy to minimize threats and discrimination based on immigration status.

“This fund is so critical at this time,” said Bookda Gheisar, Immigrant and Refugee Policy Analyst with Office of the Executive. “The organizations we funded are essential to members of the immigrant communities during this time of high anxiety and fear.”

Pictured: Attendees working on a group exercise.

The fund also supports training for educators and mental-health providers providing treatment to immigrants and refugees. Examples of this include providing critical legal services, preventing wage theft, launching a Know Your Rights campaign, and engaging vulnerable communities. King County has also prioritized a number of organizations who are working to organize, strategize and teach on these issues including the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Washington State (CAIR-WA).

After successfully completing the application process, CAIR-WA received funding to develop a new program. As the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organizations, the goal of the Washington State chapter is to help Muslims in King County overcome discrimination through community support. To meet this goal, CAIR-WA developed the Intervention Bystander Training Program to teach people how to safely and effectively stand up for others they see being harassed.

“We have been receiving a lot of calls from people who experience harassment and could see people around them who wanted to help, but probably didn’t know how,” said Sarah Stuteville, Media and Outreach Director for CAIR-WA. “We can’t have healthy communities if people don’t feel safe, so we have to help people feel safe.”

The first in a series, the Bystander Training Program, was held January 13, 2018. It was so widely attended by people from local non-profits, faith communities, the Muslim community and concerned citizens that it was recently featured in the Seattle Times.

Pictured: Attendees participating in a discussion during the training.

“People were eager to learn how to be an ally and supporter,” Sarah said. “There were a lot of people at the training who had been bystanders in the past.”

“This is just one way to empower community allies to support the Muslim community.”

Several different studies have found that Muslim individuals, especially children, face harassment and discrimination on a daily basis, with little to no help from bystanders. A March 2017 poll by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, titled the American Muslim Poll 2017, showed that 42% of adults surveyed with children in grades K-12 said their child had been bullied because of their faith. Another study, done in 2012 by the CAIR California chapter with 271 Muslim students, ages 11 to 19, showed that 50% of students were subjected to mean comments and rumors about them because of their religion.

The need for programs, like the Bystander Training Program, is essential to supporting immigrants, refugees and other vulnerable populations. With the full support of community allies, Muslims in King County can feel more safe, healthy, and able to exercise their human rights.

Pictured: Attendees practicing their newly learned bystander training skills.

“Protecting the civil rights of our Muslim American community is so important,” Sarah said. “It’s encouraging to see people interested in combatting these sentiments of discrimination and harassment.”

“It’s critical to be able to respond to that directly so everyone can experience a life of equity, dignity and opportunity.”

To learn more about CAIR-WA, or how to get involved in supporting Muslim Americans here in King County, visit www.cairseattle.org. To learn more about the Resilience Fund, view this King County press release.