Utah joins several states recognizing Muslim American Heritage Month

People gather in Times Square on February 19, 2017 in support of Muslim Americans and a protest against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. A statement declaring July as Utah’s Muslim American Heritage Month recognizes the contributions and needs of Muslim Americans. (Andres Kudacki, AP photo)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox on Friday declared July as Muslim American Heritage Month, joining only a few states in recognizing the month.

“Today, Utah is enriched by its Muslim American population and culture in the arts, cuisine, business, government and sports,” it said a statement by Cox. “For over a century, Muslims have made valuable contributions to virtually every aspect of American society.”

The statement, announced by the Utah Division of Multicultural Affairs, also recognizes that bigotry, stereotypes, and anti-Muslim hate speech and actions have caused the history of America’s Muslims to be neglected, and states that such abuses are linked to education and awareness must be combated.

The department thanked the Utah Muslim Civic League for lobbying on social media.

“We are very grateful,” said Luna Banuri, the league’s executive director. “The response from the community has been mixed. Some had not heard of it and some had seen it as the gateway to solutions to all the problems Muslims face in their daily lives that this proclamation was intended to solve.”

Banuri added that the Utah Muslim Civic League is planning a celebratory event and hopes to host a month-long celebration in 2023 that would highlight diverse ethnic communities within the Muslim community through food and culture.

She said ideas for a month to recognize Utah’s Muslims date back to 2020, when the league’s efforts for the state’s Bosnian community led to the then governor. Gary Herbert, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson issue proclamations marking the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide. According to Amnesty International, 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed during the massacre by the Bosnian Serb army in a “safe zone” designated by the United Nations. Banuri said active talks with Cox’s team over the month then began earlier this year.

Muslim American Heritage Month is certainly not the only month in the US dedicated to celebrating an ethnic heritage, but it may be the newest (although Arab American Heritage Month, recognized by the federal government last April, is close behind second place follows).

Black History Month, celebrated in February; Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month celebrated in May; and Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated September 15. through October 15, have had federal recognition since 1976, 1989, and 1990, respectively. But just last year, a Congressional resolution supporting the recognition of July as Muslim American Heritage Month was introduced. This resolution has not yet left the committee.

It also appears that Utah joins just a handful of states that have recognized Muslim American Heritage Month, including Illinois, which celebrates the month in January, and Washington. Both states began 2022 by recognizing the month.

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Sydnee Gonzalez is a reporter for KSL.com covering minority communities. Se habla espanol. You can find Sydnee at @sydnee_gonzalez on Twitter.

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