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Daily Herald: Inching Towards Understanding

Suburban students launch project to bring Jews and Muslims together

Born in Belarus and raised in Buffalo Grove, surrounded by Jewish immigrants like himself, Jacob Katz grew up knowing little of Islam and less of Muslims.

Television shows and movies taught Sharif Murphy about Judaism, a lesson the Muslim man from Hoffman Estates knew was incomplete.

Naperville’s Julia Geynisman tired of watching Jewish and Muslim students clash, driven by tensions rooted thousands of miles away in the Middle East.

Together, these University of Illinois at Chicago students are trying to unravel the knot of conflict among Jews and Muslims one conversation at a time.

Katz, Murphy and Geynisman are among the suburban students trying to get students at the Chicago campus talking about what they share, rather than shouting about what they don’t.

Called Jewish American Muslim Students, the group brings together students of all faiths for cultural films, Middle Eastern dinners and tonight for a play called “From Tel Aviv to Ramallah: A Beatbox Journey” that chronicles a day in the life of a Palestinian Internet cafe owner and an Israeli disc jockey. By hanging out, organizers say, students may begin to see each other as people — not Jewish or Muslim, not Arab or Israeli — but just people.

“I feel there’s a need for a solution in the Middle East,” said Geynisman, a 19-year-old sophomore from Naperville. “I feel the only way I can contribute is to, little by little, open the minds of students around me on campus.”

With a population exceeding 15,000 students, more than half of whom are ethnic minorities, many experts say the University of Illinois at Chicago is a fitting laboratory.

“UIC had a history of very negative and sometimes violent interactions between Jews and Arabs,” said professor Rachel Havrelock, who works with the Jewish and Muslim student group. Such rancor eased during recent years. Still, a divide persists along religious and cultural lines, a divide Havrelock and her band of students hope to bridge.

“They are ready for this key moment in their lives to investigate some traditional biases they perhaps grew up with,” Havrelock said.

What begins on campus need not stay there, said community leaders of both faiths. This new push by Jewish and Muslim students adds to interfaith initiatives around Chicago and the suburbs.

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CAIR-Chicago Organizes 2nd Annual Lecture Series on Islam

CAIR-Chicago is organizing a series of introductory level lectures on Islam with Elderhostel on a program titled Building Bridges to Islam. The goal of this series is to offer citizens of the Chicagoland area an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of Islam, as well as to interact with members of their local Muslim communities.

CAIR Chicago's Executive Director, Ahmed Rehab, will coordinate the program.

There are an estimated seven million Muslims in America today and nearly 2,000 mosques, Islamic schools and Islamic centers across the country. Indeed, Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, yet it is often perplexing to outsiders. Is the image of Muslims we see in the media the true face of Islam? What is it like to be a Muslim in the United States today? We answer these questions and more as we gain an introduction to Islam and examine the faith, cultures and traditions it has created.

In addition, we highlight the history and struggles of American-Muslims and discuss the commonalities among Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Finally, a panel discussion helps clarify the commonly misunderstood aspects of Islam, such as the rights of women, jihad, and democracy. As a special privilege, guests will have an opportunity to tour the mosque, observe noon prayer, and enjoy a Middle Eastern lunch.

"This is a wonderful experience for everyone involved; the feedback we're getting from the audience is heartwarming," Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago and the program's administrator said. "They come to us with a burning curiosity and a a sincere desire to understand; in turn, we try to candidly address all their questions, and to leave no controversial topic untouched. This is the sort of community-driven initiative that America needs more of at this juncture in our history."

The program will take place at the Islamic Center of Des Plaines, at 480 Potter Road, Des Plaines, 60016 on every Wednesday from April 5 to May 10

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see Press Release for Elderhostel Event


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Recent Events




RECENT CASES:

Civil Rights Update – 4/07/06

The Civil Rights Department at CAIR-Chicago currently has 396 cases documented in which 167 cases are active and are being pursued by department personnel. Below are the cases that were reported to CAIR-Chicago within the last two weeks.

Prison:

  • A Muslim woman reported that her husband, who is currently being detained in a county jail, is being continuously harassed by jail guards. One incident involving guards involved them playing gospel music outside of his cell on Sunday mornings. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the matter and will take whatever measures possible to assist the man.
  • A Muslim female inmate has reported being discriminated against and harassed by inmates, guards and the prison chaplain. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the matter and will pursue whatever remedies are available to the woman
  • Several Muslim inmates from a prison in Illinois have reported discrimination by their prison chaplain and prison guards. Prison guards and the chaplain will consistently interrupt Friday Congregational Prayer Services. The chaplain has also tried to infuse the Friday sermons with Christian theological teachings. CAIR-Chicago will contact the prison administrators to address the issue.


Government:
  • Two more Muslims have reported delays in their citizenship process, having applied for their citizenship and passing all necessary USCIS requirements, but have been waiting for citizenship status due to pending background checks. CAIR-Chicago is incorporating these two cases into the Citizenship Delay Project. For more information on the Citizenship Delay Project, please see the action alert below.
  • A Muslim man has reported a delay in obtaining his Green Card for permanent residency. CAIR-Chicago referred the man to the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC).
  • A Muslim man reported being approved for permanent residency five years ago, but has never received the actual Green Card. CAIR-Chicago is following up with USCIS to verify the man’s status and to have a Green Card issued to him.
  • A Muslim woman reported that her daughter, who is in custody with DCFS, is being placed against her will in a home with two non-Muslim teenage boys. CAIR-Chicago contacted DCFS regarding the complaint, who will look into placing the daughter in a Muslim home.


Employment:
  • A Muslim man has reported being passed over for promotions, raises, and other benefits after his employer found out he was Muslim. Racial jokes such as “the Pope should have slaughtered all Muslims when he had a chance at the Crusades” are some of the comments the employee has had to endure. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the complaint and will take action to aid the man.
  • A Muslim man reported harassment from his supervisor. Upon learning that the man was Muslim, the supervisor commented to him that “all of the world’s problems would be solved if the U.S. bombed Palestine and Iran.” The supervisor has also assigned other employees to do work that the Muslim employee usually covers. Since the man is paid by how much he works rather than hourly or salary, this has negatively affected the Muslim man’s income. CAIR-Chicago is assisting the man in contacting his employer and notifying them of their responsibility to ensure their employees of a hostile-free work environment.
  • A Muslim man has reported discrimination based on religion and a disability. CAIR-Chicago will assist the man in notifying his employer of their duty to accommodate the man’s religious needs as well as his disability.


ONGOING PROGRESS:

View reports of ongoing progress for cases with the Civil Rights Department in the “Progress Report” section.

ACTION ALERTS:

Citizenship Delay Project - Religious Discrimination Delays Citizenship Process:

As a joint effort with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), CAIR-Chicago is asking individuals who passed a citizenship examination and have been waiting for over 90 days, or have been waiting for a Green Card for permanent residence for over 90 days to contact us at either mennakhalil@gmail.com

Travel Free Project - Muslim Americans Detained and Questioned When Traveling Outside of the U.S.:

As part of a potential class action law suit, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and CAIR-Chicago is asking anyone who has been detained and questioned on return to the US at any border crossing (land or airport) to please contact travelfree@cairchicago.org.

Religious Discrimination at Standardized Testing Centers:

As part of a potential class action law suit, CAIR-Chicago is asking for anyone who has experienced any form of religious discrimination at a testing center to please contact us at civilrights@cairchicago.org. An example of a possible form of religious discrimination includes requiring or requesting the removal of a headscarf for searches, or discriminatory remarks made by employees about Muslims or Islam.

The facts of the above case are as follows:

A Muslim student was asked to remove her headscarf on two separate occasions at a testing center before she began a standardized test required for graduate school. The supervisor and employees of the testing center refused to show her a written copy of the policy requiring Muslim women wearing a headscarf to be searched. A witness at the testing center also observed the employees making discriminatory remarks about Muslims while the victim was taking the test.

Please let us know if you or someone you know have experienced a similar incident and would like to take action to prevent such forms of religious discrimination at standardized testing centers in the future.








CAIR-Chicago Welcomes New Staffers to the Team


Sultan Muhammad is CAIR–Chicago’s new Communications Coordinator. His professional background and life experience have been highly concentrated in the field of audio-visual communications and the development of Islamic media as educational tools. Sultan produced ‘Muslim Daily Prayers - A learner’s Guide,' is a multi-media producer by trade, having trained in broadcast editing and production at NBC/Universal and is the co-founder of MPD studios based in Chicago. At an early age Sultan studied Arabic and Islamic studies, on scholarship, at the Minaret al-Riyadh International school in Riyadh Saudi Arabia. His experiences abroad and a seventy-five year family tradition of prominent Islamic activism in America have contributed largely to his life-long focus on building understanding through education, cultural dialog, and accurate representation of Muslims and minorities in America. Sultan is the son of the late Imam Sultan Muhammad, nephew of Imam W.D. Muhammad, and the grandson of Elijah Muhammad. He is married to a Mexican-American Muslim convert and currently resides on Chicago’s South side. Sultan can be reached at communications@cairchicago.org.



Heena Musabji is CAIR-Chicago’s new Staff Attorney. She is a graduate of the DePaul University College of Law. Previously, Heena initiated the Women and Human Rights Law Initiative at DePaul, and served as director of the Sex Trafficking Opposition and Prevention Project with the International Human Rights Law Institute. Heena has also worked with the Midwest Immigrant Human Rights Center where she provided legal assistance and outreach to asylum seekers and immigrant survivors of violence, and is still involved with the organization as a pro bono attorney. She is dedicated to serving the community and advocating for those who are denied equal access to justice. Heena can be reached at attorney@cairchicago.org.




CAIR-Chicago Welcomes New Activists to the Team


Yara Yousef is a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago, where she majored in psychology and minored in history. She has recently joined CAIR as a Community Service Intern, and is active in the Bridgeview community, Mosque Foundation, and Muslim Youth Center. Yara will be returning this fall to Loyola's graduate school to pursue a master's degree in applied social psychology. She enjoys reading, writing, shopping, and spending time with friends and family.



Serim Cetin is a 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Chicago studying Political Science. He joined CAIR-Chicago as an intern with the Governmental Relations Department. He has an interest in local as well as International Politics and History. His favorite pastime is watching and playing soccer. He is originally from Istanbul, Turkey and hopes to return and be active in politics of his home country. He enjoys helping the Muslim community in anyway he can and plans on continuing his involvement after he graduates.




Become a Political Organizer & Earn Class Credit!

Want to help mobilize the Muslim community? Want to gain experience in the political field? Want class credit for doing what you like?The Governmental Relations Department is currently recruiting interns and volunteers for the historical political mobilization initiative, Project O. If you would like to help organize and mobilize the Muslim community or learn more about Project O, contact Governmental Relations Coordinator Sadiya Ahmed at gov.relations@cairchicago.org

Are you a Law Student Looking to Earn Credit While Externing at CAIR?
 
Extern will work closely with CAIR-Chicago's Executive Director and Civil Rights Coordinator on the following:

  • Assist in documenting incidents of religious discrimination by counseling and interviewing complainants regarding their incidents

  • Research laws and policies on employment, student conduct, and immigration procedures, as well as criminal offenses and other areas as seen fit

  • Legal writing: drafting arguments, memos and complaints

  • Participate in representing complainants in dispute resolution, EEOC mediation, filing complaints and law suits

  • Assist in maintaining the Civil Rights Online Center

  • Updating databases containing information about abuses reported to CAIR-Chicago The ideal candidate should be organized and demonstrate the ability to follow through the various on-going and newly assigned tasks. The ideal candidate will possess excellent written communication skills and a commitment to serving the community.


  • This is an unpaid externship. Open to all law students.
     
    Are you an Undergraduate or Graduate Student Looking to Earn College Credit While Interning at CAIR-Chicago?
     
    CAIR-Chicago is currently offering 11 internship opportunities. All internships are unpaid, but students may receive college credit. Applicants need to email a resume and cover letter to Dina Rehab, Outreach Coordinator, at: outreach@cairchicago.org.

    CAIR-Chicago is offering the following positions for internships:

  • Civil Rights Intern
  • Communications Intern
  • Community Service Intern
  • Governmental Relations Intern
  • Grant Research Intern
  • Marketing Intern
  • Operations Intern
  • Public Education Intern
  • Public Relations Intern
  • Church Project Intern
  • Faith Core Online Magazine Intern


  • Please Contact the Outreach Coordinator for more information on the tasks and duties of specific internships. Call Dina Rehab at 312-212-1520 or at outreach@cairchicago.org
     











    Executive Director
    Ahmed Rehab

    Civil Rights Coordinator
    Christina Abraham

    Outreach Coordinator
    Dina Rehab

    Governmental Relations Coordinator
    Sadiya Ahmed

    Operations Coordinator
    Sabah Ahmed

    Communications Coordinator
    Sultan Muhammad

    Staff Attorney
    Heena Musabji


    Board of Directors
    Alim Elliott Khan
    Mazen Kudaimi, MD
    Alif Muhammad
    Ahmed Rehab
    Zaher Sahloul, MD
    Hina Sodha, Esq.
    Yaser Tabbara, Esq. - Secretary
    Safaa Zarzour, Esq. - President







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    CAIR-Chicago (A Chapter of The Council On American-Islamic Relations)
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