Around 1,500 supporters gathered at the O’Shaughnessy on Saturday, March 25 for a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) fundraiser and show. The lineup of speakers featured many notable Muslim figures and activists. The event was titled “1,000 Who CAIR,” and was an initiative to build up support and funding for the Minnesota chapter of CAIR. Victims of Islamophobia spoke about their experiences and the importance of action against it in these political times. “Let’s not just be frustrated, but let’s turn all these emotions into action,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR MN.
CAIR is an organization that has 30 chapters in the United States. Their mission, according to their website, is to “enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” They help Muslim people with legal representation in cases of religious discrimination and hate crimes. They also offer many other services to Muslim people in America, including voter registration, educational publications, and action alerts.
Many speakers talked about the way that Muslim people are represented in American media in negative ways; only in relation to violence and terrorism. This has contributed to rising incidents of Islamophobia, especially in relation to the election of President Trump.
Dr. Debbie Almontaser spoke on the Yemeni bodega strike that happened in New York in Feb 2017 as a reaction to Trump’s immigration ban. The strike made known the presence of Yemeni-Americans in New York. As a Yemeni-American, Almontaser was particularly affected by Trump’s Executive Order 13769 which would have suspended entry to the U.S. for people from the countries Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, and Libya.
“When an incident of hate happens, call your local mosque and let them know you stand with them,” Almontaser offered as a way to support Muslims in someone’s community.
One of the most anticipated speakers at “1,000 Who CAIR” was Khizr Khan, a Pakistan-born, Harvard-educated lawyer who gained recognition for his speech at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2016. Khan has since become a visible advocate for American Muslims, going around the country speaking to audiences. Khan too encouraged audience members to be more vocal about the treatment of Muslim people in the United States.
Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar of District 60B shared personal stories of her personal experiences as a Muslim woman in the United States after 9/11, saying “…for the first time, it felt like I was extremely alone.” Since then, however, Omar has noticed a change. “Today we understand what’s at stake…Our country’s ideals,” she said.
One of the most informative parts of the evening was presented by Dalia Mogahed, a Muslim-American scholar who presented research about statistic research about American Muslims. Mogahed’s research is pertinent because there is not much cumulative research on the Muslim community in the U.S. This is because the United States Census does not ask questions about religion.
“Muslims look like the America of the future,” noted Mogahed, referencing the ethnic and racial diversity of the Muslim community. As a faith community, they are one of the least homogenous and yet one of the most visible. Mogahed’s research is available here: http://www.ispu.org/public-policy/american-muslim-poll/.
One of the groups that sponsored “1,000 Who CAIR” was Revitalizing the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE), a group that serves as a network for Muslim women in amplifying their work and leadership in their communities.
“I think we give [Muslim women] encouragement to bring that voice forward, and help to spread the word that [their] voice counts,” said Tuere Tidwell, chairwoman of RISE.
Megan Hernick served as a volunteer at the “1,000 Who CAIR” event. Hernick became a CAIR volunteer after the election of Donald Trump. “I reached out via e-mail. I decided it was a good cause to support in these times,” she added.
To find out more about the Minnesota chapter of CAIR, you can visit their website here.