SeaTac Muslims and other faith leaders decried the former interim city manager’s idea to create a “tactical map” of where Muslim residents lived, and vowed to get more involved in city politics.
Amina Ahmed, a resident of SeaTac for 15 years, questioned how SeaTac City Council vetted the former interim city manager James “Donny” Payne.
“If I’m scared of the community, how am I going serve the community?” she said, at a gathering organized by local interfaith leaders gathered at the Abu-Bakr Islamic Center in Tukwila on Friday.
Ahmed joined several dozen interfaith leaders, including Muslims, Christians, Jews, members of the Sikh community and SeaTac residents and civic leaders to call on state Attorney General Bob Ferguson to investigate to see if any other city of SeaTac policies or practices have a discriminatory effect. The event was organized by the Interfaith Economic Justice Coalition.
“An attack on you is an attack on me,” said Rabbi David Bisor, of the Kadima Jewish Community.
Hira Singh Bhullar, who is Sikh and from Kent, said while Sikhs are sometimes victimized by perpetrators who mistake them for Muslims, he said the real problem is Islamophobia.
“It’s not a matter of us being mistaken for Muslim,” Bhullar said. “It’s why are you targeting Muslims?”
Two current SeaTac city council members, Tony Anderson and Kathryn Cambpell — who were two of the three council members who voted against the hiring of Payne — also spoke in support of the city’s diverse communities and urged the people at the meeting to become more politically active.
Jamal Ahmed, a SeaTac resident, also encouraged Muslims and East Africans community to get active in local politics.
“We need to be responsible for our own welfare and stop subcontracting other people to take care of us. We need to be represented in the policy-making classes,” Ahmed said. “Let’s have our own people at City Hall.”
He also said that he and others planned to attend the city’s council retreat on Friday.
According to an investigation report released by the city in May, Payne, who was on the job about three months, asked a city of SeaTac employee about whether it was possible to map the city’s Muslim residents through U.S. Census data. Payne was told that religious information was not available through the U.S. Census, and the map was never made.
Payne told the SeaTac blog after the report was released in early May that it “mischaracterized” his actions and that his intent was “to ensure everyone in the city was best provided essential services. Nothing else.”
Payne resigned in March. The SeaTac Blog posted the investigator’s entire report in early May.
Amina Ahmed echoed the call for the city’s diverse population to get out the vote and run for office. The majority of SeaTac’s residents are people of color, and about 37 percent of the city’s population are immigrants, according to the U.S. Census.
“If we don’t ask the right questions, we don’t get the right (job) candidate,” she said.