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Utah lawyers pledge to defend Muslim refugees pro bono

After the election of Donald Trump as President, many Muslims in the United States have reported an increase in harassment, bullying and other such threats and attacks due to their religion, and even more so for women who wear the hijab. The state of Utah is no different and so on Tuesday, 50 diverse attorneys and other professionals announced the formulation of the new Refugee Justice League of Utah.

James McConkie, a civil-rights attorney and co-founder of the league suggested that refugees needed to “know that they have friends who are willing to help them. The organisation will seek to prevent or remedy harassment and if need be, to take such matters to court, all without charging any fees.

McConkie’s law partner and co-founder of the league, Bradley Parker, added that those “who choose to harass and accost instead of choosing to help and assist should stop. Harassment and discrimination are not only contrary to our moral values, they are illegal.”

The league’s initial plans are to focus on the Muslim community; anyone who has been harasses or targeted are encouraged to fill out an incident report, which will then allow the league to determine the appropriate course of action. As such, the league aims to teach refugees about their rights and plans on working hand in hand with mosques to help identify those who need help, and to provide them with an avenue through which they can raise concerns and reports.

Noor Ul-Hassan, a Muslim community leader who has lived in Utah for 26 years states that she still wakes up “with stress and anxiety almost every single day since the election.” She also states that she feels safer knowing that professionals in the region care for her and people like her and more notably, knowing that the Utah Governor, Gary Herbert, is openly against the creation of a Muslim registry.

She said the establishment of the group was important because many refugees have faced repression in their home countries and above all else, they do not know their rights in the United States, which in turn makes them more reluctant to take action when facing harassment, especially when they may not want to attract attention to themselves.

The group suggests that it is now ready to accept all complaints and will work with all avenues necessary in their fight for justice and to ensure Utah remains a home for residents and refugees alike, in the same way it was for the Mormons who settled there in the past in their struggle to find a safe haven for them to practice their religious beliefs without interference or persecution.

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