It is the end of September and if it wasn’t an election year, the Ohio Statehouse would likely be a much busier place than it is right now.
In what has been a very quiet summer at the Statehouse, Tuesday was a bit of an anomaly thanks to the Senate being back for a single session and a gathering of a group hoping to talk to lawmakers about their concerns.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Ohio Chapter organized the gathering of Muslims, as the second annual Muslim Day at the State Capitol.
This year, nearly 60 teenagers visited the capitol and had an opportunity to visit with lawmakers and/or their staff to share personal stories and how they felt about legislation currently being considered.
Chief among them were issues like gun safety, minimum wage and police bias.
“We feel like these are issues that are plaguing our society and so we need to stand up and do something about them,” said Usjid Hameed, the public affairs coordinator for CAIR Ohio.
Their goal was simple: To be heard. Something several of them said doesn’t always happen as a marginalized group.
“If you want to bring about change, you have to stand up and do something about it,” Hameed said.
That is the lesson he is hoping the teens take away from Tuesday’s event and it is a lesson that may ring true for Thabia Assad.
Assad, sophomore in high school, came to Columbus from Cleveland to speak to lawmakers about what is important to her.
“I’m trying to go to college. So, when I grow up and I go to college I want to be able to, you know, go to college and do whatever I need; be financially stable,” Assad said.
Her hope is that she can reach the people she talks to; if not the lawmaker, their staff.
“Maybe they can see it from like a different point of view, you know like maybe they never thought about it the way I thought about it,” Assad said.
She said just because she and her friends are Muslim does not make their fears any different than anyone else’s.
“You don’t really have to be Muslim to agree with what we’re saying,” Assad said.
The day was also a reminder that despite being a group often overlooked, their vote carries the same weight as other voters.
“As residents and as voters in Ohio, we’re paying attention and we want you all to do something about these very pressing issues,” Hameed said.
One of the biggest concerns the group has is the lack of movement on bills modeled after Governor John Kasich’s six proposed solutions.