‘It is shameful.’ Activists condemn Raleigh for holding meeting during Ramadan

April 4, 2022


Local activists are condemning the city of Raleigh for holding a public hearing related to bus rapid transit service during the month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for Muslims, with many fasting while the sun is up. Muslims then eat once the sun has set in a meal called iftar, which coincides with when the Raleigh City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the Western Boulevard bus rapid transit corridor on Tuesday.

The holy month began Saturday and ends May 2.

While the U.S. Census doesn’t collect religious data, a large portion of the Triangle’s Muslim population lives near the proposed bus line, including members of the Islamic Association of Raleigh, which includes a masjid, or mosque, and school.

“We’re not living in the 1800s,” said Faisal Khan, founder of Carolina Peace Center, during a Friday news conference. “They are well aware of that. I mean, would they hold a meeting like this on Easter or on Christmas? Or Passover? No, they will not do that. It’s disrespectful. You need to be respectful to the community.”

Work on the Western Boulevard Corridor Study began in 2019 to help pick the bus rapid transit route connecting downtown Raleigh to downtown Cary. The community engagement process lasted nearly two years with 1,500 participants, according to the city.

“I believe that it is shameful and disrespectful to hold this meeting during the holy month of Ramadan,” Khan said. “And I’m really disappointed and hurt as an American Muslim, not only for myself, but for the Muslim Americans, and by extension, other minority communities, Black and brown communities and immigrant communities, who I feel are constantly being marginalized with racial injustice and with racist policies.”

Some community members are scared and worried about the potential gentrification and housing pressures they could face from increased development along the future bus line, said Zainab Baloch, founder of Young American Protest and a former Raleigh mayoral candidate.

“I’m tired,” she said. “As a Muslim woman I give my life to service and then to never be taken care of by any of my government structures, in any case, in any of my livelihood,” she said.

The groups asked that the public hearing be moved and for the city to reconsider the timing of the “Mayor’s Unity Day,” organized by the city’s Human Relations Commission, which is also being held during Ramadan.

The event should be dropped during election years, the activists said, because it could be used as a campaign event.

“We demand that the Human Relations Commission never stage another event using taxpayers money during the municipal elections just so that the current mayor and City Council can get free exposure,” according to their news release.

In the press conference, Baloch said she told Council member David Cox about their concerns. On Facebook, Cox wrote that he plans to ask that the public hearing be held open through the end of the holy month.

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