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CAIR-CHICAGO NEWSLETTER







MEDIATING EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION DISPUTES
by Maaria Mozaffar

January 2, 2007

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, is an institution that allows individuals to file complaints of discrimination, and offers mediation for employment disputes. The specific purpose of EEOC mediations is to allow an injured employee to resolve any employment issues with his/her employer without pursuing litigation. However, the overall benefits that mediation gives go well beyond the formal scope of a mediation session. It allows an individual to face his/her employer and have an opportunity to defend their personal dignity. This ambitious result is due to two key factors.

Firstly, the mere structural components of a mediation session facilitate the opportunity for injured employees to be heard fairly and clearly.

To start, an EEOC mediation allows the injured party to introduce, in his/her own words, the basis of their claims of discrimination. Prior to this stage, the injured party has already attempted to contact the employer through correspondence, internal grievance procedures, or simple verbal communication. Unfortunately none of these attempts at communication have resulted in any substantive change for the employee that has faced the discrimination.

The introduction or opening statement part of the mediation allows the injured employee for the first time to look his/her employer dead in the eye and air out their version of the story. In addition, mediations are usually attended by not only the employee's direct supervisor but also high level corporate officers of the employer.

Most recently, CAIR-Chicago represented a client in a mediation session in which an elderly Muslim gentleman who had been employed for more than 15 years at his company was allowed to finally stand up and air grievances against his immediate manager. The immediate manager had a history of being disrespectful and discriminatory towards the client. The client confronted his manager in front of the employer's CEO. We watched the dignity our client portrayed as he spoke about his loyalty to the company, but his disappointment in how he was being treated. The client's calm demeanor and firm class was inspiring.

After the introduction of opening statements, the employer is required to verbally respond to the injured employee. Prior to this, the employer would have been able to evade the employee by not responding to requests for meetings with the injured employee, delaying correspondence, or playing the excuse card of over-packed schedules. During this particular mediation, the CEO of the employer apologized sincerely and profusely for the manager's actions; indicating to the client that his immediate manager's behavior was not reflective of the company's overall approach towards conflict resolution. In addition, the client's immediate manager was silent and offered no explanations for his poor behavior and instances of evading managerial responsibility. One could see the sense of victory in the eyes of our client.

The second part of the mediation allows each party to ask questions and openly discuss possible alternatives to satisfy both parties at the table. At this point, the injured employee displays the most control over his/her options in resolution. This gives the client the indication that he/she has a right to a positive resolution of their case. These moments, from discussion to negotiation to actually signing a settlement, displays to the injured party a sharp contrast from his/her experiences of humiliation and personal degradation. Whereas before, the injured party was made to feel inferior, they now face their discriminators on equal footing. CAIR-Chicago's most recent client took the opportunity to negotiate a resolution to every single issue that was facing him; resulting in a detailed comprehensive seven point settlement agreement. The agreement provided substantive changes for our client, but more importantly it gave him the sense of control over his circumstances, his response to his employer's actions and his personal dignity.

The second and more significant attribute of EEOC mediations that give injured employees a feeling of victory is its legally binding authority. Our clients all know that they have not taken a back seat of asserting their rights by not litigating; instead they managed to find a faster, more efficient method in resolving their issues without paying legal fees. This allows injured employees to go back to their place of employment with their held head high. All settlement agreements, if violated, are enforceable in a court of law. All injured employees know full well why their employer agrees to mediation. Specifically, employers come to mediation when they know that indeed a court of law may find them guilty of civil rights violations.

Mediation gives employees an opportunity to be heard, to be seen, and to be protected. However, the most important attribute of mediation is that it allows the employer to hear, to watch and understand the purpose of legal protections. The moment the ink hits the paper the employer begins to learn of its responsibilities and is also reminded of the strength and dignity of its employee.

Maaria Mozaffar is CAIR-Chicago's Legal Advisor and can be reached at legal@cairchicago.org.


copyright © 2006-07, CAIR-Chicago





TAKING ISLAM OUT OF RADICALISM
by Reem Rahman

December 29, 2006

In response to the Chicago Tribune article: Why the rise of radical Islam?

I am disappointed that the Chicago-Tribune chose to print Victor Hanson's "Why the Rise of Radical Islam?" Hanson's commentary is characterized by selective slicing of history and simplistic suggestions for solutions to the problem of a global rise in extremism.

Hanson offers a gross reduction of current events in order to support his views of "the rise of radical Islam." He selectively cites events of violence, genocide, terror, and oppression as acts united by the factor of "radical Islam." Such complex global crises are real and serious. Issues of such import should not be so expediently categorized or diagnosed.

To use the word Islam to qualify the problem of radicalism is highly problematic. Such reductive terminology asserts that anti-civilization radicals are inspired by Islam; standing in flagrant opposition to the vast majority of peaceful Muslims who reject that Islam informs such activity.

Hanson's argument gives credibility to marginalized groups hijacking Islam and empowers their intended projection as a legitimate and growing force.

Terrorists by definition are marginalized elements of society—sub national, clandestine and difficult to locate or identify. Terrorists are not united, and certainly not by any credible ideology.

Islam-i-cist, radical Islam, Islam-o-facism—or whatever the popularized quantifier of the moment may be—is not the problem.

"The data show that, [what] nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland," and have little to do with "Islamic fundamentalism or any one of the world's religions," states terrorism expert, Robert A. Pape, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago.

The terror tactics of radicals are to Islam what adultery is to marriage: antithetical to its moral foundations; reprehensible.


copyright © 2006-07, CAIR-Chicago









PRESERVING AMERICAN VALUES: WHOSE FREEDOMS ARE BEING THREATENED?
by Sadiya Ahmed

December 25, 2006

There has been a lot of talk lately about America being stripped of its traditional values. Newly-elected Congressman Keith Ellison has not even started his job yet and he is already facing criticism from the conservative right for wanting to take his oath on the Qur'an. What started off as Mr. Ellison's right to practice his religion freely (a fundamental principle of the Constitution), has turned into a hodge-podge of Islamophobic and anti-immigrant remarks.

The most recent entry into the debate has been Representative Virgil Goode (R-VA). In a letter sent to his constituents, Representative Goode warns of the so-called negative effect that Mr. Ellison's election, as an American-Muslim could have on traditional American values. He wrote of his fear of more Muslims getting elected into office in the future, if we "let" Mr. Ellison take his oath on the Qur'an. In fact, he went so far as to say, "I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped." Is a strict, limited immigration policy the panacea to preserving "American values?"

Mr. Ellison happens to be an American who can trace his genealogy in the United States as far back as 1742. So where does the "Goode" approach to immigration come in again?

Even if the immigration argument was somehow relevant to the issue at hand, let us go through a very quick history lesson.

The Pilgrims immigrated (yes, contrary to popular assumption, they were not the first people in the Americas) to the present-day United States to escape religious persecution in England; that's why one of the most fundamental tenets of the Constitution is the right to practice one's religion freely. So to attack Mr. Ellison, or any individual for that matter, for practicing his faith and prevent him from doing so is a constitutional violation.

The Constitution strictly bars the use of religion to screen members of Congress, therefore no religious texts are used during the swearing-in ceremony. Religious texts are used during private, ceremonial sessions.

So, the issue really isn't about preserving "traditional American values" as Representative Goode puts it. Preserving American values means one ought to protect the rights of an individual to practice his religion freely, without fear of persecution, as the framers of the Constitution intended. Preserving American values means continuing to incorporate and welcome people, regardless of race, creed, religion, or ethnicity into our American society.

The fear is not of losing American values—it is a fear of the unknown. Selective, negative publicity that demonizes immigrants and categorizes them as national security threats creates an ‘us versus them' dichotomy which marks immigrants as burdens on American society and makes the idea of being American while being an immigrant a mutually exclusive concept.

If we really believe in preserving American values, then we must strive to protect our very basic rights, the ideas that the Constitution was founded upon. We must also strive to respect, not merely tolerate, cultural and religious differences between us. After all, isn't that why America is referred to as "The Melting Pot?"

Sadiya Ahmed can be contacted at gov.relations@cairchicago.org


copyright © 2006-07, CAIR-Chicago









SPRING 2007 INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES AT CAIR-CHICAGO

CAIR-Chicago, the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), is currently offering 18 new internship opportunities. CAIR is the nation's largest Muslim civil rights organization. The organization's mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

All internships are unpaid. Internships last one semester and include a 12-hour/week commitment. Applicants should email a resume and cover letter to Dina Rehab, Outreach Coordinator, at: internships@cairchicago.org.

APPLICATION GUIDELINES:
clearly indicate which internship opportunity you are applying for in your cover letter. If you are applying for more than one position, please list in order of preference (please note: spring internships usually run from January through May). Applications that do not list the above information will not be processed. If you have any questions, please email all inquiries to internships@cairchicago.org. Students interested in receiving class credit, should indicate so in their cover letters. Credit will be arranged during the first week of the academic semester.

Listing of all internships by department:

Civil Rights:
CIVIL RIGHTS INTERN
LAW CLERK (Open to Law Students Only)

Communications:
COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
CHURCH PROJECT INTERN
FAITH CORE ONLINE MAGAZINE INTERN
PHOTO JOURNALIST INTERN

Governmental Relations:
GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS INTERN
GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS COMMUNITY ORGANIZING VOLUNTEER RECRUITER
VOTER EDUCATION PROJECT INTERN
POLICY RESEARCH INTERN  

Operations:
INFORMATION DESK
OPERATIONS INTERN
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INTERN
EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT INTERN

Outreach:
PUBLIC RELATIONS INTERN
PUBLIC EDUCATION INTERN
HUMAN RESOURCES INTERN
MUSLIMS CARE PROJECT INTERN


copyright © 2006-07, CAIR-Chicago





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Recent Events




RECENT CASES:

Civil Rights Update – 01/02/07

The Civil Rights Department at CAIR-Chicago currently has 695 cases documented in which 277 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.

Employment:

  • A Muslim man working for the Corrections Department of a county Sheriff's Office was asked to resign two days after he informed his superiors that he could not shave his beard for religious reasons. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the matter and will take whatever action necessary to resolve the incident.
  • A Muslim man has been retaliated against at work after reporting discrimination at a local department store against other Muslim employees. The man reported a supervisor who did not want to hire two Muslim women because they wear the headscarf (hijab). The supervisor was subsequently terminated, and others at the store have retaliated against the man for complaining ever since. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the complaint and will take whatever action necessary to resolve the incident.
  • A Muslim man has experienced harassment by co-workers for several years. Although his previous supervisor would always respond to his complaints, his current supervisor ignores them and tells him that his co-workers are "harmless." Co-workers make comments to him such as "go back to your country" and "you look like a terrorist." Additionally, the man has received poor evaluations under his new supervisor. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the complaint and will take whatever action necessary to resolve the matter.
General:
  • A Muslim man working on behalf of a group of Muslims planning a conference during Ramadan reported that the hotel they had been working with reneged their initial price quote. The group relied on those quotes in making their reservations, and was later told of the price increase. CAIR-Chicago is contacting the hotel management to resolve the issue.
Government:
  • Ten more Muslims have reported delays in their citizenship process. Some of these individuals have passed the exam and met all the necessary requirements for obtaining citizenship. However, due to a new USCIS policy, some Muslims have had their interview dates cancelled, and are experiencing delays prior to their citizenship interview. The new policy requires security checks to be completed before being able to interview for citizenship. CAIR-Chicago is incorporating these cases into the Citizenship Delay Project. For more information on the Citizenship Delay Project, please see the action alert below.
  • A Muslim woman is experiencing a delay in renewing her green card for permanent residency. CAIR-Chicago is inquiring about her status to USCIS.
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), the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), and Competition Law Groups, CAIR-Chicago is asking individuals who have been delayed in obtaining citizenship to contact us at civilrights@cairchicago.org.

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

If you are a Muslim woman who practices wearing hijab, and have been singled out at the airport for allegedly random searches, while observing that other travelers not wearing hijab were not singled out, please contact travelfree@cairchicago.org.



















Join CAIR-Chicago at our 3rd Annual Fundraising Banquet! RSVP Today!

CAIR-Chicago's Third Annual Event is set to take place Inshallah on Sunday, February 11th, 2007 at The Drury Lane Theatre in Oak Brook. Please mark your calendars and show your support by attending that day.

Click Here to RSVP

We are also recruiting volunteers to help with this event, If you are interested in helping a chapter of the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group in the country, please contact our event planner at annualevent2007@cairchicago.org.


Please Attend as Final Witnesses Testify in The Muhammad Salah Trial


The Muhammad Salah trial is in its final days, please attend to show your support for due process, anti-torture, and just application of the law. This case marks the first where an American court has allowed the prosecution of an American citizen based on an admission obtained under torture in a foreign country and in a language the defendant does not understand.

Mr. Muhammad, a long time Chicago-land resident, was arrested, tried, and jailed for several years while administering charitable aid to victims of the war-ravaged Palestinian territories. He was accused by the Israeli government of supporting terrorism.

For many observers, the Muhammad Salah case amounts to political persecution.

This Week's Schedule



CAIR-Chicago Welcomes A New Activist to the Team

Reem Rahman is a junior at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign who has joined CAIR-Chicago as an Executive Assistant Intern. She is currently working towards an interdisciplinary study of the mind in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience. One of her major interests is Project Management--particularly in creating documentation of projects to build upon past work, guiding future leadership, and ensuring the longevity of non-profit groups.

Reem is also a Residence Hall Advisor at Allen Hall where she facilitates and creates programs for the empowerment of women, conflict resolution, interfaith dialogue, creative expression, sustainable activism, and leadership development. She helped to found and directs a university chapter of CAIR. Recently, Reem was accepted as a Young People For America Fellow, as a young American joining the continued struggle to keep us engrossed with the founding principles of our nation. Her energies are united by a commitment towards proactive engagement as a norm rather than as a reactive exception.


CAIR-Chicago's Muslim Activist Website






director@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, Esq.

Legal Advisor
Maaria Mozaffar

Community Organizer
Haady Taslim

Sensitivity Training Coordinator
Veronica Zapata

Board of Directors
Alif Muhammad
Ahmed Rehab
Hina Sodha, Esq.
Yaser Tabbara, Esq. - Secretary
Mazen Kudaimi, MD - Vice President
Safaa Zarzour, Esq. - President







Click Here





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For more information, please contact:

CAIR-Chicago (A Chapter of The Council On American-Islamic Relations)
28 E. Jackson Blvd, Suite 1410, Chicago IL 60604
Phone: 312-212-1520, Fax: 312-212-1530
Email: info@cairchicago.org, Website: www.cairchicago.org


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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