SEEKING TIMEOUT FOR PRAYER
by Manya A. Brachear
Muslim students weary of huddling under bleachers to pray during sporting events want Northwestern to come up with an alternative
As the Ohio State Buckeyes pummeled the Northwestern Wildcats on Ryan Field last November, senior Amir Siddiqui and his friends slipped below the bleachers, removed their shoes and knelt on pieces of poster board to pray.
As the sea of purple cheered and jeered above, Siddiqui tuned out the world around him to perform salaat, the Islamic ritual prayer that faithful Muslims recite five times daily.
Siddiqui will do the same in Welsh-Ryan Arena next week when the Buckeyes basketball team goes up against the Wildcats. But rather than pray amid raucous crowds, some Muslim students are pressing Northwestern's athletic department to set aside a secluded space for the ritual, or grant them permission to come and go from the arena before the buzzer.
"If we attend the game in its entirety, we would miss one of our five daily prayers," said Siddiqui, president of the Muslim cultural Student Association. "I can leave the game early, come later, or pray somewhere in the stadium on dirty floors with lots of noise and lots of people around, which isn't a huge problem. But we'd love to have a small area."
In a statement, associate athletic director John Mack said the athletic department was not yet ready to make such an exception for Muslim fans. He has agreed to meet with Muslim student leaders next week.
"There were some logistical issues involved, particularly in regards to people leaving the arena or Ryan Field while a game is in progress and then seeking re-entry, which is normally not allowed," Mack wrote. "But we understand that Northwestern is an institution that values diversity, so we're continuing to take a look at it to see if there is a way we can accommodate the needs of our Muslim students."
Space is set aside
Northwestern has set aside two sacred spaces within secular buildings where Muslims can pray. The multicultural center on campus includes a prayer space for students of all faiths. And classrooms are reserved weekly at the Technical Institute, which houses the school of engineering, a popular major among Northwestern's approximately 200 Muslim students.
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council for American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, said the beauty of salaat is that it can be performed just about anywhere. Prayer space is often set aside in airports and hospitals, he said.
"If you don't have that option, you just close your eyes and concentrate," he said.
Rehab understands the discomfort about praying among crowds, however. He recalled that a group of Muslim fans were detained at a New York Giants game in September 2005 after they left the stands to pray. Space was set aside at the stadium after the incident.
Rehab said the quest for prayer space could be an opportunity to close the knowledge gap about Islam and teach more Americans about the central role of prayer in the Muslim faith.
Some students oppose request
The campus newspaper has published at least one letter to the editor in opposition to the Muslim students' endeavor to set aside space.
"Any spectator attending a sporting event recognizes that certain sacrifices must be made to attend a live event," wrote 2005 graduate Scott Barnett. "If attending a game interferes with one's religious rituals, I suggest they watch it at home or simply postpone the rituals until after the game."
But Ruediger Seesemann, an associate professor of Islamic studies at Northwestern, said academic institutions have a responsibility to encourage spiritual formation.
"These Muslim students want to integrate their Muslim identity with their identity as college students," he said. "Why not let them bring their prayer rugs, let them pray and let them enjoy the basketball game?"
"I personally think it can be settled in a very easy and uncomplicated way," Seesemann added. "The fact that it becomes a matter of debate is significant and points to the sensitivity of the issue."
That sensitivity, he said, stems from fear and a lack of knowledge about the Islamic faith--nothing a dialogue can't fix. A student senator representing the Muslim constituency on campus, sophomore Hibah Yousuf, hopes to launch that dialogue with administrators next week.
While she often prayed either before or after the fall football games, the matter took on greater significance after she performed hajj during the winter break. The pilgrimage to Mecca is required of all Muslims at least once in their lifetime. For Yousuf, the spiritual sojourn reinforced the importance of a sacred place to pray.
"Before I was going through the motions," Yousuf said.
Now she reads translated verses of the Koran beforehand and seeks a clean, quiet space for her communion with Allah.
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
OPEN MOSQUE SERIES:
The Downtown Islamic Center (DIC)
By Dina Rehab
The Downtown Islamic Center (DIC) is located in downtown Chicago. The five storey building, close to the intersection of Jackson and State, includes three prayer halls and a main room used for diverse activities.
The mosque facility also rents out its ground level to a retail store and its 3rd floor is home to the CIOGC office. The DIC serves the downtown Chicagoland area, with more than 700 attendees at both Jummuah prayers every Friday.
"It is a much needed service in prime location," said Shaik Maqsood Quadri, DIC Board Member for eight years.
Mosque congregants are predominantly of South Asian descent, but “you can find almost every nationality here," said Quadri. “Female attendance is roughly 10% of total attendees," he added.
The birth of DIC came with the need to pray Jummuah (Friday prayer). In the late 60s, a few congregants, approximately ten to twenty, gathered to pray at a vacant office in Sargent & Lundy at the intersection of Adams and Michigan.
In the early 80s, congregants rented a floor on Adams to accommodate the increasing numbers, now reaching more than 200 congregants each week.
The building was later purchased by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; however, and the congregants had to find another location to fulfill their weekly prayers.
In 1998, the mosque board rented a floor at 218 S. Wabash but the need for a larger and more permanent location prompted board members to concentrate their efforts on raising enough funds to make this goal a reality.
In 2004, with the generous contributions of members of the Greater Chicagoland area, DIC's board purchased the current construction at 231 S. State Street.
Although the DIC was created to address the prayer needs of community members in the Downtown Chicagoland area, the mosque's mission also extended to creating a place that would serve as a community center and a platform for dialogue.
Outreaching to members of different faiths in an effort to understand and be understood, started as early as the late 70s. Congregants met with members of neighboring churches where members of each religious faith learned about the other.
Programs & Services
The DIC is home to a variety of services which include two Friday sermons and prayers (with approximately 700 attendees each week), interfaith activities, and Chicago public school and university visits where students come to watch how Muslims pray and learn more about the Islamic faith. The mosque also has a small library.
Other programs and services include: adult Arabic language classes - once a week; weekly Qur'an and Tafsir classes; pantry collections, hot meal drives, homeless dinners in Ramadan, clothing drives, blood drives and charity distribution.
The board currently has 20 members (4 female/16 male). Board members are nominated by mosque congregants and the existing board then follows-up on the nomination. Each board member receives a four year term; however, newly elected members are given an initial 2 year term that is extended to a total of 4 years based on performance. Membership terms are staggered to ensure continuity.
Current board members include: Syed Khan, Dr. Mohammed Kaiseruddin, Dr. Yakub Patel, Abdullah Mitchell, Salman Azam, Fazal Mehmood, Farooq Rehman, Maqsood Quadri, Faiz Ahmed, Naheed Adhami, Amanatullah Ansari, Mohammad Rafati, Bashir Julien, Kamran Hussain, Mohammad Hosain, Shama Ahmed, Nizam Arain, Inam ul-Haque, Shehla Syed and M. Wajahat Ali Khan.
The Downtown Islamic Center is looking to expand its library. Board members are accepting donations for books and computers. Board members are also accepting book donations; all books must be in good condition.
The board is also extending their outreach services to the community and is appointing a board member for that sole purpose. Quadri expressed his desire to outreach further to Muslims in the downtown Chicagoland area: "There are more Muslims in downtown Chicago than the existing 700 Muslim congregants that attend. We need to understand what is stopping them from coming".
Those who wish to contribute to the Downtown Islamic Center's future goals can do so by contacting the DIC board at email@example.com
Dina Rehab is CAIR-Chicago's Outreach Coordinator; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the Open Mosque series.
copyright © 2007, CAIR-Chicago
THE MALICIOUS PROSECUTION OF MUSLIMS
by Christina Abraham
Muslims in America worry every day about being singled out because of their religion. They fear that their religious ties will make them targets of law enforcement, employers. colleagues, or hate-filled criminals. For many Muslims, this fear has been actualized.
One phenomenon recently observed by CAIR-Chicago is the malicious prosecution of Muslims. It begins when federal law enforcement investigates a Muslim for purported ties to terrorism. Then, when nothing can be found against them, other unrelated charges are brought. Many times, the charges are tenuous. Often, the charges are eventually dropped or the individuals are cleared through a trial, but not without an emotional and financial toll.
Such is the case with a Muslim doctor in Macomb, Illinois. Federal authorities began investigating him because of a tip that was received soon after he had fired an employee for stealing medications. Federal authorities seized much of his charts and other documents, visited patients at their homes and informed them that their doctor was being investigated for links to terrorism. They were unable to find any evidence to incriminate him. Despite this, the States Attorney has brought forth fraud charges against the doctor for a $2100 discrepancy in his books that took place during a week when the doctor was out of the country.
Although the Muslim doctor has been uplifted by the outpouring of support from the Macomb community, including rallies and letters written on his behalf, the charges against him have negatively affected his professional and personal life. When all is said and done, the doctor will very likely be acquitted for the weak charges against him. However, his freedom will not come without a price. The price will have been paid over three years of intense scrutiny under the eye of the government, the loss of prestige, and the emotional toll of a long court battle that was unnecessary from the beginning.
Sometimes the law is used as a tool for discrimination, as in the case of the Macomb doctor. As the civil rights community monitors the laws and policies that fly in the face of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, we must also look vigilantly at the other ways that individuals in this country may be discriminated against. These other forms of discrimination are no less taxing, and no less of a threat to the civil liberties of us all.
Christina Abraham is CAIR-Chicago's Civil Rights Coordinator and can be contacted at email@example.com
Copyright © 2007, CAIR-Chicago
In the News
Civil Rights Update – 01/30/07
The Civil Rights Department at CAIR-Chicago currently has 704 cases documented in which 281 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.
- A Muslim man reported constant harassment and derogatory treatment by his manager. The man was terminated, but his employer tried to deny him unemployment benefits by claiming that he resigned. CAIR-Chicago represented the man in an administrative hearing for unemployment benefits, and will continue to assist the man in filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- A Muslim woman working at Chicago area drug store has experienced employment discrimination after choosing to wear the Muslim headscarf (hijab) at work. The woman’s hours were significantly reduced and she was being scheduled at times that conflicted with her school schedule. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the matter and will assist the woman in filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- Four 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.
- Two Muslim men reported a delay in obtaining their Green Card for Permanent Residency. CAIR-Chicago is filing inquiries on behalf of the men to determine the reason for the lengthy delay.
- A Muslim man reported being delayed while traveling. CAIR-Chicago is incorporating this case into its Travel Free Project and will assist the man in getting safe-listed with the Transportation and Security Administration.
- Three Muslim inmates at a prison facility reported being denied the ability to pray during prayer times. They also report being denied prayer rugs, halaal foods, and Friday Congregational Prayer Services. CAIR-Chicago is contacting prison administrators to address the problem.
- A Muslim woman detained at a correctional institution is being denied the ability to obtain religious education, and other religious accommodations. CAIR-Chicago is investigating the matter and will assist in getting the prison to accommodate the woman’s religious beliefs.
- A Muslim woman reported that her friend, a convert to Islam and of Mexican origin, was asked to remove her headscarf (hijab) at the Mexican consulate for an identification card. The woman also planned to obtain the card from the Mexican consulate and was concerned that she, too, would be asked to remove her hijab. CAIR-Chicago will determine whether this is consulate policy, and if the women can be accommodated for their religious practices.
View reports of ongoing progress for cases with the Civil Rights Department in the "Progress Report" section.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
email@example.com. 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 INTERN
LAW CLERK (Open to Law Students Only)
CHURCH PROJECT INTERN
FAITH CORE ONLINE MAGAZINE INTERN
PHOTO JOURNALIST INTERN
GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS INTERN
GOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS COMMUNITY ORGANIZING VOLUNTEER RECRUITER
VOTER EDUCATION PROJECT INTERN
POLICY RESEARCH INTERN
INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY INTERN
EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT INTERN
PUBLIC RELATIONS INTERN
PUBLIC EDUCATION INTERN
HUMAN RESOURCES INTERN
MUSLIMS CARE PROJECT INTERN
CAIR-CHICAGO WELCOMES A NEW ACTIVIST TO THE TEAM!
Anas Mahafzah is an undergraduate student joining CAIR-Chicago as a Communications Intern. A third-year sociology major at DePaul University, Anas is fluent in Arabic and has a developed interest in matters pertaining to Islam and the Muslim community here in the United States. He intends to go on to law school and pursue human/civil rights work within the purview of the Law.
CAIR-CHICAGO'S MUSLIM ACTIVIST WEBSITE
Civil Rights Coordinator
Governmental Relations Coordinator
Heena Musabji, Esq.
Sensitivity Training Coordinator
Board of Directors
Hina Sodha, Esq.
Yaser Tabbara, Esq. - Secretary
Mazen Kudaimi, MD - Vice President
Safaa Zarzour, Esq. - President