‘A Day of Solidarity’ event organized by the Islamic Center of Wheaton (ICW) was successful in bringing together the community. The cafeteria was abuzz with the chatter of first time acquaintances and old time friends – all there for the same purpose: to stand in support of the CIOGC member mosque, ICW, who recently encountered a grave injustice. A fake hoax website was created under their name with disturbing photoshopped images and statements linking ICW to extremist ideology and terroristic groups like ISIS, which has since been taken down. For everyone at ICW’s “A Day of Solidarity” panel, both in spirit and in person, their presence echoed the light of friendship, and a firmness that they would not let ICW deal with this cybercrime alone.
Putting their empty falafel-and-kabob plates away, the guests made their way to the main prayer space where the panel was held. The hall was filled with almost 70 community members of all faiths.
“There was overwhelming support and condemnation from the community and our neighbors – we want to build bridges, not walls, to make friends, not enemies,” said Mr. Abraham Antar, President of ICW. “This was not just against the Muslim community, it is against the friends and neighbors that support us.”
The panel consisted of Wheaton Mayor Mr. Michael Gresk, Wheaton Police Chief Mr. Jim Volpe, CAIR Chicago’s Executive Director Mr. Ahmed Rehab, two Wheaton College Professors Professor Noah Toly, and Professor Matthew Milliner, Hope Presbyterian’s Pastor Jay Moses, ICW’s resident scholar Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan, ICW’s Coordinator Ms. Nadia Sabri, and CIOGC’s Programs and Graphics Manager Ms. Reem Hobeldin.
“We should not only stand with those who are wrongly reviled during times of crisis, but we should stand with our neighbors even during times of calm,” said Professor Noah Toly, director of Wheaton College’s Center for Urban Engagement.
Wheaton Mayor Michael Gresk said the center’s actual website, www.icwonline.org, is “a real robust list of activities and programs and outreach to the community, which the center should be proud of.”
Ms. Reem Hobeldin iterated the importance of interfaith work and standing together like one body, as per the example in one of the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), such that when one part aches, the entire body feels it and cannot function to the best of its ability, and similarly that when one part thrives, the entire body would also be able to thrive. Standing together and sharing the message with friends and families during these times is of utmost importance.
Pastor Jay Moses communicated a powerful message that bullies were not to be tolerated, and that the true nature of a bully is a coward who wants to disband friends and pick on others.
Mr. Ahmed Rehab reminded us all that within the bigger picture lay the idea of supremacy – that some people feel that they are better than others, that they are more deserving than others, and that they have more rights to human dignity, equality and justice than others.
Indeed, it was a powerful gathering of great support on Saturday, January 16, and as one of the audience members commented in the questions and comments period, “Good always wins.”
Click here to see pictures from the event.