By Husnaa Vhora
The Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) and a number of Muslim community organizations joined the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) for a rally at the Chicago Teachers Union on January 14 to call on elected officials and leaders to make Illinois a safe and welcoming place for all of its residents including the Muslim community, immigrants, and refugees.
The rally which brought over 1,200 people aimed to challenge the incoming Trump administration’s threats to deport millions of undocumented immigrants as well as establish a Muslim registry and ban Muslim immigrants. Alongside CIOGC were member organizations Arab American Family Services (AAFS), Syrian Community Network (SCN), Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and its partners CAIR-Chicago and the Arab American Action Network (AAAN).
Dr. Bassam Osman, Chairman of CIOGC, set the tone for the rally through his strong opening prayer on behalf of the Muslim community. Dr. Osman drew loud cheers from the crowd when he said, “Lord, this land is your land, it is not Trump’s land.” He also prayed for strength and resolve to fight discrimination and Islamophobia.
After hearing testimonies from diverse speakers, the energized crowd was encouraged to act by CIOGC Executive Director Tabassum Haleem who stated, “We want to let Governor Rauner know that we want him to make Illinois safe for immigrants and refugees by supporting the policies in our platform.” In order to send an even bigger message to the governor’s office, Haleem urged the crowd to hold up their “Make Illinois Safe” signs so that a picture could be taken and delivered to Governor Rauner’s office.
A performance by the group Elephant Rebellion engaged the crowd very early in the program. One of the performers, activist and hip-hop artist Uran Kabashi, is a refugee from Kosova who came to the United States in 1999. Kabashi said that the event was very well organized and that the rally was able to get the set outcome “because of testimony and action in combination.”
Another immigrant and refugee, 31-year-old Rehab Alkadi, of the Syrian Community Network has been in the United States for four years with her husband and son. She reflected on her experience as a refugee, starting from scratch and how she and her family just want to be accepted. “We didn’t want to be refugees here, but the difficult situation forced us to abandon our country. We’re not trying to be a burden, we just want to live with peace and dignity.”
During the event, attendees used the hashtags #WeWillResist and #HereToStay to show their solidarity and send the message that they will not back down. AAAN’s youth leader, Nora, told the crowd that the Muslim registry equates to racial profiling and is unacceptable. “We will stand together against bigotry and hate,” she added. More youth presence from the event came from The Korean American Resource and Cultural Center’s Luke H. who is studying to become a scientist. He said, “I am undocumented, unapologetic, and unafraid!”
A debriefing and reflection session followed the event for members from participating organizations on how community members can continue working towards immigration and refugee policies that protect liberty and justice for all.
Photo Credit: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)