Mayor Megan Barry praised Nashville’s Muslim community and spoke about the “gift of globalism” in her speech Saturday at the Islamic Center of Tennessee in Antioch.
Barry made her comments at a luncheon to celebrate the third annual Standing up for Justice and Muslim Community Day. The event was sponsored by the American Muslim Advisory Council.
A progressive Democrat, Barry has faced criticism from conservatives who portray her embrace of immigration as a heedless one that doesn’t seriously examine the challenges posed by linguistic, cultural and religious diversity.
Barry issued a proclamation Saturday honoring Muslims in which she calls them “an increasingly important thread in the tapestry of America” and calls their presence in Middle Tennessee “historic” even though their presence did not become notable until recent years.
In her speech, Barry said promoting diversity has been a critical issue for her since taking office. Nashville is home today for many newcomers from all over the world. Barry noted the 120 languages spoken by families whose children attend Metro Nashville Public Schools.
“What a gift to have a multilingual community,” she said. “We need to make sure that the folks who are speaking their first language continue to speak that language but that they also are English proficient because that gives us the gift of globalism for Nashville. What a great thing to have a global community where multiple languages are spoken and celebrated, because that’s what this is about. The fact that we are diverse makes Nashville stronger. Our diversity is what has created the economic boom that we have seen.”
Barry has been an outspoken critic of President Trump’s immigration and refugee policies and on Saturday took a jab at his frequent talk of building a border wall.
“My faith teaches me that we build bridges to connect to each other and that is what Nashville does,” said Barry, who was raised Catholic. “We don’t build walls.”
State Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) also spoke briefly at Saturday’s event. He said he was happy to see Muslims in the area become more politically engaged.
“I’ve been thrilled to see more and more people from this community coming, voicing their issues, seeking representation and being represented,” Yarbro said. “It’s an honor of my job.”
He also said that despite recent political divisiveness, he believes the future is bright because of “how we have worked together” and “how we have made this a more and more welcoming city.”
“I think this is the path forward, not one of division,” Yarbro said.
On its Facebook page, the Islamic Center of Tennessee called Saturday’s event “an outstanding program” and said “May Allah reward all of our dedicated volunteers who facilitated the smoothness of the program” before listing more than a dozen groups that contributed.
At the end of her speech, Barry read the entirety of the proclamation she issued for the day:
A Proclamation Celebrating Muslim Community Recognition Day
WHEREAS, Muslims, both native-born and immigrant, represent an increasingly important thread in the tapestry of America; and
WHEREAS, the founding documents of our great nation and our beautiful state protect religious freedom in no uncertain terms; and
WHEREAS, the Middle Tennessee Muslim Community is a historic, respected and celebrated part of our city; and
WHEREAS, everyday, Tennessee Muslims contribute to our collective prosperity and vitality as doctors, nurses, engineers, police officers, educators, entrepreneurs, business owners, and skilled laborers; and
WHEREAS, Nashville is deeply enriched by the many cultural, professional, civic and philanthropic contributions of our Muslim neighbors; and
WHEREAS, our city’s Muslim community and its leadership regularly and proactively work to forge new and mutually beneficial relationships among Nashvillians of all backgrounds; and
WHEREAS, Nashville’s faith, business, nonprofit and civic leaders have all repeatedly demonstrated that we are stronger as a city when we celebrate one another;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that I, Megan Barry, Mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, do hereby proclaim
May 6, 2017, as Muslim Community Recognition Day
and encourage all residents to recognize the positive impact of Muslims in our community.