A Call to Action: Solidarity in a Time of Islamophobia

The views expressed below reflect only those of the author.

Like many members of my community, I woke up the morning after the election feeling scared and abandoned by my countrymen. How could so many have voted for someone actively preaching hatred against my community? Against Muslims, and someone well known for taking advantage of women? I was crushed not by the thought of the bigots and their hatred but of the many who were not compelled by their hate but by their indifference. These voters voted for Trump based on his economic policy and the change they felt it promised them, but that choice meant overlooking his divisive, hateful rhetoric, and its potential for terrible consequences. Not even a week after the election, there have been reports across the country of fear and intimidation being spread across college campuses.1

Living with Islamophobia is hard. Each reported incident of a shooting of a religious leader, a sister whose hijab is ripped off, a child who is bullied in school and called a terrorist, sends shock waves through our community. These are the strongest, most obvious threats against us. But the underlying, insidious current that runs beneath this is the sense that no matter what we do, we will never belong here. Many of us are immigrants or refugees, or the children of immigrants and refugees; our parents left their homes and uprooted their lives to find something better, only to have settled in a new land to realize that we are not wanted here. Many of us are descendants of slaves, who can trace our lineage back generation after generation, further back than most Americans. And yet, we will always be seen as the “other,” an alien threat to the lives of “ordinary” Americans.

Columbus is a city called home by thousands of Muslims, many of whom are refugees. Last week, the Columbus City Council passed a resolution against Islamophobia, announcing support of the Muslim community in Columbus. The Columbus Muslim community is grateful to the Jewish Voice for Peace, the sponsors of the resolution, and the CCC for getting this resolution passed, as many communities call Columbus home. This gesture was a good first step to addressing that sense of exclusion — but this resolution is not enough, it must be catalyzed into action to make this city a safer, more welcoming place for all who live here. The only way for us to move forward and above the divisive language of Islamophobia, and every other form of discrimination, is to recognize that the good in this city (and this country) will be in acknowledging that the Muslim community, the black community, the LGBT community, the disabled community — that every community is OUR community, that their struggles are ours and their fears are ours.

The question now is what are we going to do to ensure that Muslim sisters wearing headscarves feel safe walking in its streets? What are we going to do to ensure that workplace discrimination does not occur in this city simply because of a person’s hairstyle? What other measures will we take to protect those in this city who may become targets of the hate crimes being reported across the nation? What kind of example are we going to set, especially in this post-election environment, that bigotry and divisiveness will not be accepted?

We must condemn bigotry yes, but even more, we must be allies to each other’s “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”

1. See “Reports of Hate Crimes Rise After Donald Trump Victory”.
2. See “New York Imam Shooting”
3. See “Woman Wearing Hijab attacked at San Jose State”.
4. See “Seven-year Old Boy Beaten on North Carolina School Bus for being Muslim”
5. See “Donald Trump has unleashed a new wave of bullying in schools”

Adeeba Arastu is a Muslim- and Indian-American student at the Ohio State University, studying architecture and geography. She is the Editor of the Muslim Students’ Association blog, IQRA, as well as an active member of Unchained, an organization that works to raise awareness for human trafficking. She can be contacted at arastu.2@osu.edu.

The Time to End Gerrymandering is Now

How can something that happens every ten years have more to say about who is in Congress than the voters? And what can we do about it?

Ohio’s congressional district map has been described as resembling a shattered mirror. Oddly-shaped districts stretch in all directions. Traditional geographic boundaries such as counties and cities are routinely carved into numerous districts, splitting communities.

Legislative districts are drawn every ten years. In 2011, congressional districts were drawn to artificially favor the party in power—the Republican Party— utilizing the tactics of “packing” Democratic voters together into a few Democratic leaning districts.  Mapmakers also used “cracking” or breaking up natural political constituencies.  “Cracking” divided Democratic voters and put them in districts with many more Republican voters.

The strategic manipulation of these districts—gerrymandering— led to truly uncompetitive elections. Although the total number of votes cast for each major party is consistently close Gerrymandering v.6 by Michael F. Curtin 12.2015to even in this battleground state, the political party that drew the maps won 75% of the seats (12 of 16) even though they only got roughly 50-60% of the votes.

Ohio’s congressional districts are so “safe” from opposition that the congressional map perfectly predicts which political party will win each district. The party that favors or is more dominant in the congressional districts won 100% of the time in 2012 and 2014, and that trend is expected to continue.

The result of this hyper-partisan mapmaking is that the competitive election—or the real election—occurs during the primary, not the general election. This tends to yield candidates that appeal to partisan extremes rather than the electorate as a whole. And more ideologically extreme representatives lead to difficulty compromising and to partisan gridlock.

Ohio is just one state and partisan gerrymandering happens all over the country. And both political parties do it. Consequently, the least productive Congresses in history have come in the past decade. According to The Pew Research Center the 113th Congress (2013-2014) was almost the least productive Congress in history, second only to the 112th Congress (2011-2012).

In November 2015, voters overwhelmingly passed State Issue 1.  This bipartisan redistricting reform created a fairer and more transparent process for drawing state legislative districts.  But it did not include congressional districts.

Now it’s time to finish the job.  What’s good enough for the Statehouse should be good enough for Congress!  

At this year’s State of the State, Governor John Kasich said that he wanted to see congressional gerrymandering in the “dustbin of history.”

During the lame duck session of 2014, the state legislature passed a resolution that put state legislative redistricting reform (Issue 1) on 2015 ballot.  They could follow suit and put congressional redistricting reform on next year’s ballot.

Unfortunately, congressional redistricting reform faces some obstacles—our legislative leaders.

Speaker of the Ohio House Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) has described state legislative and congressional redistricting as “apples and oranges.” He has suggested that voters wait until after the 2021 mapmaking before advancing congressional redistricting reform.   Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) described his opposition to congressional reform as opposition to “a divesture of legislative authority.”

So redistricting reform legislation languishes at the Statehouse.

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) and Rep. Michael Curtin (D- Columbus) have introduced a resolution to reform congressional redistricting reform in the Ohio House of Representatives. Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) and Senator Tom Sawyer (D-Akron) have introduced a resolution in the Ohio Senate.  Both of these resolutions are similar to Issue 1 of 2015, but neither of these resolutions have received a single hearing.

Gerrymandering Explained

​At a forum in Cleveland last month, Senator LaRose recommended that voters “evangelize” about the need for congressional redistricting reform and said, “We have to start with why it matters.  Your neighbor or John Q. Public, the person you see at work or wherever else— they may not know why it matters…. The way that the districts are drawn causes polarization and dysfunction… all kinds of problems in state and federal legislative bodies.”

Learn more about congressional redistricting by watching this video.  Find out how you can make a difference by visiting fairdistrictsohio.org.  If you have any questions, please call Common Cause Ohio at 614-441-9145.

Catherine Turcer is Policy Analyst for Common Cause Ohio and is an expert on redistricting reform and state level campaign finance.