CC ISSUE: APR2012 Last updated: 2012-04-05 07:55:44
Our Civic Agenda
Join us at Illinois Muslim Action Day 2012
Dr. Zaher Sahloul
The preparation for our 5th Illinois Muslim Action Day, IMAD, is in full force. It is expected that more than 1,200 Muslims, young and old, joined by our civic and faith partners, will spend a full day in our state’s capital, Springfield, on April 17 discharging their faith and civic duties as citizens of the fifth largest state of the country.
IMAD may be only one day of advocacy in a whole year, but it means much more than that. It is the culmination of the whole year of community organizing, political empowerment, civic engagement, discussions, planning, collaboration with our faith and civic partners, leadership training and youth development. It is a true reflection of our diversity and our concerns.
In the past few years, our civic agenda was as diverse as our community but, in general, it is oriented toward social justice. We want to make sure that our policies and our state are fair and equitable. We also want to make sure that our environment is clean, our immigrants are welcomed and our students are given better chances to excel.
We advocated in the past for equitable public school funding, foreclosure mitigation, fresh food funds for inner city so-called “food-deserts,” inclusion of Arabic language and other strategic languages in high school curriculum, supporting the “Green Ramadan” campaign to educate faith communities on how to link the fasting season to reducing our carbon consumption, supporting social services and teaching English to immigrant families, against online gambling and supporting the rights of Muslim citizens to donate to their charities without fear.
This year our civic agenda include four main areas:
- Stop the violence in our cities: So far this year, there have been 94 murders in Chicago. There were 66 in the same period last year. There have been 408 shootings so far this year, compared to 296 in the same period in 2011. We have to advocate for peace in our cities, where the streets belong to the families and children and not to the gangs. We have to make sure that we have less guns in our streets and that all faith groups stand unified in sending one message to our politicians and our police departments: “You should do your best to stop the violence in our streets and neighborhoods and we are behind you until everyone feels safe in their neighborhoods.”
- Overhaul our public education: We have inequitable public education systems where we have different funding of schools based on the location of the schools. Schools in wealthy suburbs tend to be better funded than schools in urban areas, and students in wealthy schools tend to be better equipped to deal with college and life and have brighter futures. This situation is unjust and it has to be changed. The root causes of the failure of public education in urban areas needs to be tackled. Education boards have to be accountable to the citizens, not only to politicians. Also we need to introduce new strategic languages, like Arabic, Urdu and Mandarin, that will open new doors for our students when they graduate because of their global importance.
- Advocate for healthcare for immigrant families: Illinois should continue to be a hospitable state to the immigrant and to provide them with social services including “AllKids” and “FamilyCare” programs.
- Stand up against bigotry and Islamophobia: Islamophobia is the relatively new form of bigotry and racism. We have to stand united against it. We should not support hate by staying silent. Anti-shariah laws are becoming a new trend in the Islamophobic agenda. Our legislators should take a stance against Islamophobia, hate and bigotry.
IMAD has become a unique opportunity to translate our principles as faith community into civic action. In IMAD, we can demonstrate the true essence of being Muslim in America, to be true to our values and to transform ourselves and our neighborhoods for the better. The doors are still open: join us on April 17 and prove through action and not just by words that you are a true, faithful citizen.