Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services is hosting the State's first Iftar dinner to celebrate the Muslim month of Ramadan. Iftar is the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset, with the festivities of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan next week. This is the first Iftar dinner hosted by any gubernatorial administration in New York State.
"The holy month of Ramadan is a time to embrace the Muslim values of peace, humility, charity and faith, and celebrating the State's first Iftar dinner is an important way for all New Yorkers to come together and show the nation we stand united in this rising time of hatred," Governor Cuomo said. "While intolerance and hate are being spread across our nation, it is more important than ever to remember our values of unity and tolerance and to reject Islamophobia, racism and discrimination in all its forms. There is no compromise on this matter and there is no moderate position - we have no room for hate in our state."
"Tonight's Iftar dinner is an important moment in history for our State - to join our Muslim family and honor the holy month of Ramadan," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who is speaking at the dinner. "In New York, we embrace our diversity and shared values, and inclusion is our strength. Now more than ever we must continue to reject hatred and efforts to divide us and come together to support the rights and protections of all New Yorkers."
Executive Director and Deputy Commissioner Governor's Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services Karim Camara said, "Tonight is a momentous occasion for the State of New York as we celebrate the first Iftar dinner hosted by any administration in our state. As we gather to pray and break the fast together, let us reflect on our values and traditions and use this celebration as an opportunity to preach tolerance and acceptance at a time when hate is destroying our nation. I am proud that the Office of Faith-Based Community Development Services is hosting this dinner, and I hope it will encourage all New Yorkers to learn more about the traditions of Islam."
There are approximately 3.45 million Muslims currently living in the United States, and 22.3 percent of America's Muslims live in New York City. The Muslim community is rapidly growing and by 2040, Islam will be the second-most practiced religion in America. New York also has more mosques than any other state, largely concentrated in New York City.
Throughout his time in office, Governor Cuomo has been a national leader in championing equal rights and has implemented numerous ongoing initiatives to combat bias and discrimination. In 2016, the Governor created New York's first Hate Crimes Task Force of 120 bias crime trained investigators within the State Police to investigate and offer assistance to other law enforcement agencies investigating potential hate crimes. In 2017, Governor Cuomo announced the formation of a new Interfaith Advisory Council to help achieve a greater understanding and tolerance of all religions and cultures, promote open-mindedness and inclusivity and bolster the state's efforts to protect all New Yorkers. The Council includes Muslim community leaders from across the State, including Imam Abdul-Rahman Yaki of the Islamic Center of the Capital District, who will be the religious officiant at tonight's Iftar dinner.
In New York State, the number of hate crimes spiked 19 percent in 2016, but declined 7 percent in 2017 and 6 percent in 2018 following the Governor's continued actions to combat bias and discrimination. Islamaphobic incidents in New York also declined from 41 in 2016, to 26 in 2017 and to 18 in 2018, a decrease of over 55 percent. Just this year, there have been several incidents of Islamophobia in the State, including on January 23 when law enforcement in Greece, New York prevented a possible terror attack against the Islamberg Muslim community in Delaware County.