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CAIR-CHICAGO NEWSLETTER




DHS, USCIS, AND FBI DISCUSS CITIZENSHIP DELAY AT MOSQUE FOUNDATION

May 18, 2006

CAIR-Chicago hosted a panel of US government representatives last Thursday at the Mosque Foundation of Bridgeview in order to explore the reasons behind the widespread delay in Citizenship Applications for members of the Muslim community.

The panel included DHS Community Liaison Carol Hallstrom, Acting District Director of USCIS Jerry Heinauer, and representatives from the FBI as well as Mosque Foundation Associate Director Sheikh Kifah Mostafa and CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab who presided over the program.

Maaria Mozaffar with CAIR-Chicago's Civil Rights department collected and read out questions from the floor, pressing the panel for clarifications and elaborations. CAIR-Chicago's staff attorney Heena Musabji and CAIR-Chicago's communications coordinator, Sultan Muhammad, were also in attendance.

Approximately 100 people attentively listened as the DHS representatives explained some of the reasons behind the delays in processing applications for citizenship. An honest open discussion took place in which members of the community questioned why they were being targeted and waiting for over two years for citizenship. One individual asked:

“Why are we being treated like criminals? We are law abiding Muslims. Why are we having to wait this long.” The representatives responded by assuring that the process is not anti- Muslim; it is bureaucracy that slows down the process.

In response to this claim, the representatives from DHS were questioned on what specific internal reforms were taking place to make the process more efficient and customer friendly. The audience was informed that currently an increase in staff is taking place to handle the large volume of citizenship applications. The representatives explained what USCIS and the FBI can and cannot do in terms of these delays.

Inquiry forms were available on-hand for anyone who wished to file an inquiry on their case. All members on the panel stayed well after the event answering questions for audience members in an effort to clarify polices and alleviate frustration. Many individuals took advantage of this rare opportunity and questioned members on the panel about their specific cases and shared their concerns regarding the entire citizenship process. Intake was also performed on-site for members of the community who wished to address their experience of citizenship delay through CAIR-Chicago’s Citizenship Delay Project.

Of note is a class action lawsuit filed by CAIR-Chicago, the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC), and Competition Law Groups earlier this month. The class action is first of its kind, as it directly asks the DHS and CIS to be held accountable for the numerous delays of citizenship applications submitted by Muslim individuals.

Link to event information here

Event Photos



CITIZENSHIP DELAY: HEAR ABOUT THE ISSUE FROM GOVERNMENT REPRESENTATIVES

Have you passed the citizenship examination and have been waiting for over 120 days?

Speakers:
Jerry Heinauer
Acting District Director of the Chicago Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Carol Hallstrom
Community Liaison for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

Federal Agents (TBA)
Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)

Ahmed Rehab
Executive Director, CAIR-Chicago

Christina Abraham
Moderator / Civil Rights Coordinator, CAIR-Chicago
When: Thursday, May 18th, 6:30pm – 8pm

Where: Mosque Foundation
              7360 W 93rd Street
              Bridgeview, Illinois 60455

Representatives from DHS will explain some of the reasons behind the delays in processing applications for citizenship. They will explain what USCIS and the FBI can and cannot do in terms of these delays. Although they will not be able to answer questions about specific cases, they will have inquiry forms on-hand for anyone who wishes to file an inquiry on their case. Questions will be written out by members of the audience, and a mediator will read them out to the speakers.

Intake will be performed on-site for members of the community who wish to discuss their experience of citizenship delay to see how we can help.

For more information contact: civilrights@cairchicago.org


DAILY HERALD: "PROGRAM OFFERS INSIGHT ON ISLAM"

http://www.dailyherald.com/story.asp?id=187745

As he walked through the doors at the Islamic Center of Des Plaines, Vern Geurkink couldn’t help but marvel at the austerity of the modern-looking mosque.

A retired Christian minister now living in Naperville, Geurkink has been inside dozens of churches and even some synagogues over the years, but this was like no worship space he had ever seen.

“I thought to myself, where are all the books? Where are all the paintings and icons?” he said. “It was different, but a wonderfully eye-opening experience for me.”

Geurkink was one of about 60 seniors — many of them from the suburbs — who visited the mosque Wednesday during the latest in a series of daylong educational programs sponsored by the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

In addition to the tour, they also observed the mosque’s afternoon prayer ritual, dined on an Egyptian lunch and listened to a brief lecture about the Koran and the five pillars of the faith.

Later, they partook in an hourlong question-and-answer session aimed at debunking myths about the faith, which counts more than 1.4 billion followers worldwide.

One woman, Lorene Watson of Des Plaines, wanted to know more about the hijab, the style of dress preferred by some Muslim women that requires the covering of the head, arms and legs.

“A lot of people ask me if I’m forced to wear this by my father, but that’s not the case,” said Sumiah Aduib, a young Muslim woman who answered Watson’s question. “It was my own decision. I took it on, and I felt like it completed me as a person.”

While many said they were inspired to attend because of a simple devotion to lifelong learning, others pointed to the war in Iraq and ongoing Christian-Muslim conflicts around the world as the reason for their interest in Islam.

One woman said she feels Islam is unfairly portrayed in the American media, which she said focuses on a minority of extremists while ignoring millions of Muslims whose core beliefs mirror Christianity’s Golden Rule.

Ahmed Rehab, who coordinates the program, said Muslims themselves are partly to blame for that phenomenon.

“The American media isn’t inherently anti-Muslim, it just hasn’t dealt with us for long enough.” he said. “Since 9/11, we’ve sort of been shocked into opening up more and I think there’s been a greater understanding.”

Although more than 1,200 people have participated in the outreach program during the past two years, Rehab said he hopes to expand it even more, perhaps by welcoming school field trips.

“There is a huge disconnect between what these people have seen today and to what most people see on TV or in the newspapers,” Rehab said. “We American Muslims need to be more outspoken so more people will understand who we really are.”

efanselow@dailyherald.com

See Also
Press Release to Media
Participant Testimonials
Event Photos
Event Program

SAUDI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES, PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL, THANKS CAIR-CHICAGO

ROYAL EMBASSY OF SAUDI ARABIA
601 NEW HAMPSHIRE AVENUE, N.W.
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20037

OFFICE OF
THE AMBASSADOR

May 11, 2006

Mr. Ahmed Rehab
Executive Director
Council on American-Islamic Relations
28 E. Jackson Blvd.
Suite 1410
Chicago, IL 60604

Dear Mr. Rehab,

Thank you for organizing the tour of the Mosque Foundation during my recent trip to Chicago. I was glad to be able to visit such a vibrant Islamic community and see the work it is doing to build bridges of understanding between Muslims and members of other faiths. I appreciate all you and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are doing to achieve that same goal at a national level.

I look forward to when we may meet again. If you are ever in Washington, DC, please be sure to visit

Best regards,

Turki Al-Faisal
Ambassador
Event Photos




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Recent Events




RECENT CASES:

Civil Rights Update – 05/22/06

The Civil Rights Department at CAIR-Chicago currently has 430 cases documented in which 184 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.

Government:

  • A Muslim man has been experiencing a delay in obtaining his Green Card for Permanent Residency due to a pending background check. CAIR-Chicago referred the man to the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC) for legal assistance.
  • Another Muslim man has reported a delay in obtaining his Green Card for Permanent Residency due to a pending background check. As the man already has legal representation, CAIR-Chicago advised the man to consider his attorney’s advice and seek the opinions of other attorneys if he chooses.
  • A Muslim man has been experiencing a delay in obtaining a visa for his daughter. CAIR-Chicago will refer the man to the Midwest Immigrant and Human Rights Center (MIHRC) for legal assistance.
  • A Muslim man was charged with offenses after a dispute and believes the police were discriminating against him because of his identity. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the complaint to determine the man’s best course of action.
  • A Muslim man believes he was the victim of racial profiling because he lives in a predominantly white area, but when appearing for court observed that the overwhelming majority of people appearing for traffic violations were people of color. CAIR-Chicago is incorporating this complaint into a broader Racial Profiling Project, a sub-set of the Police Misconduct Project, in order to work to address these issues.
  • A Muslim man was approached for an interview with the FBI. As is CAIR-Chicago’s general advice to anyone who is approached for an interview with a law enforcement agency, CAIR-Chicago recommended the man obtain legal representation to be present at the interview.
  • A Muslim man was stopped by police for a traffic violation when the police mistakenly believed he was driving on a suspended license. The man was arrested and taken to the police station where he was held for several hours after police determined that his license was valid, while police verified his immigration status. Police told the man that his identification was fake, made comments about his nation of origin, and then called DHS to verify his immigration status. CAIR-Chicago is contacting the police department to address the issue and will take whatever steps necessary to resolve the incident.
  • A Muslim man was held for over 8 hours by police after having asked police on his block a question about a parking ticket he was issued. The man was held and questioned in the interrogation room and was told he did not have the right to an attorney after he repeatedly requested one. The police also called the FBI, claiming the man admitted being tied to terrorists. The man was then questioned by the FBI without an attorney after he, again, requested one. CAIR-Chicago is contacted the police department regarding the issue and will take whatever action deemed appropriate to resolve the incident and discipline all of the officers involved.
  • Five 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 five cases into the Citizenship Delay Project. For more information on the Citizenship Delay Project, please see the action alert below.
Employment:
  • A Muslim man is experiencing disparate treatment at his place of employment. The man’s supervisor has consistently favored other employees over him, as well as misapplied and misrepresented company policy toward him. CAIR-Chicago is contacting the employer and will take whatever action necessary to resolve the situation.
  • A non-Muslim university instructor was terminated after teaching students about Zionism in a World Religions course. The instructor was told by the department chair that teaching students about Zionism opened Judaism up to criticism, and that under no circumstances should it ever be taught in a World Religions course. The department chair also criticized the professor for allowing students to ask questions about Zionism and Judaism, and made comments about her surprise that the instructor “even allowed a Muslim student to speak.” The instructor’s union representatives are pursuing several possible claims against the university. CAIR-Chicago is working with the instructor’s union to raise awareness on the incident and on recent similar issues involving academic freedom that are plaguing institutions of higher education.
  • A Muslim man employed as a Curriculum Coordinator for a local high school has experienced adverse treatment after trying to teach students about issues affecting the students’ communities, such as racism and poverty. The man also experienced harassment after inviting a speaker from the Nation of Islam to talk to students about leadership and activism, even though he followed proper procedure to invite the guest. CAIR-Chicago is contacting the school’s administration and will take whatever action necessary to resolve the issue.
  • A Muslim woman who practices wearing the headscarf (hijab) has experienced harassment and a hostile work environment from a supervisor. CAIR-Chicago will investigate the complaint to determine the woman’s best course of action.
  • A Muslim man has been reprimanded at work for taking time off for religious holidays. CAIR-Chicago will assist the man in addressing this issue with his employer and will take whatever action necessary to resolve the situation.
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 Three New Activists to the Team

George Tobin is a sophomore at Loyola University Chicago, where he is pursuing a degree in Poltical Science and a degree in Communications. George joined CAIR-Chicago as a Governmental Relations Intern due to his interests in diversity and government, and hopes to use this opportunity to gain immersion experience in a possible career path for the future. He plays Ultimate Frisbee, reads, and enjoys spending time with his family and friends.

Musab Siddiqui joins CAIR-Chicago as a summer intern in the Communications Department. Musab is currently finishing off his senior year at North Shore Country Day High School. He will start film school at Claremont-mcKenna College in California this fall. His interests include football, surfing and drama; he is currently acting in Romeo and Juliette. He was drawn to CAIR-Chicago because "it promises to stretch my mind."

Laura Etheredge has joined CAIR-Chicago as a Communications Department Intern. Laura is a MA candidate in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago. She graduated in 2005 from McGill University in Montreal with an Honors degree in Middle Eastern Studies where she also served as an editor for the annual MESSA (Middle Eastern Studies Students' Association) journal. Laura is a self-taught artist with an interest in utilizing the universal nature of artistic vocabulary to communicate and exchange cultural material, and has presented in several shows over the years. Her MA thesis will be a translation and illustration of a piece of Arabic literature for children to promote positive cultural expression and encourage culture-based questions and interest.




director@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

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    Sultan Muhammad

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    Heena Musabji, Esq.


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    Ahmed Rehab
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    Hina Sodha, Esq.
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    The Chicago Activist is a publication of CAIR-Chicago
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    Phone: 312-212-1520, Fax: 312-212-1530
    Email: info@cairchicago.org, Website: www.cairchicago.org