On Wednesday, January 20, 2016, Youth Programs Director Gihad Ali was invited to speak to Universal School students in Bridgeview, where 160 sophomores, juniors and seniors were briefed on the topic of Islamophobia. Islamophobia is an unfounded fear or dislike of Islam and Muslims. But why is there a fear of Muslims? What have I done to deserve this kind of hate? These are questions young Muslims may be asking.
Ms. Ali offered a political analysis as to why Islamophobia is on the rise, and explained that there is an entire industry behind Islamophobia. She described how others, especially Black people, have been under attack in the U.S. media for decades.
Students and teachers shared experiences in which they faced anti-Muslim sentiments, ranging from Islamophobic slurs to being spat on. In response, Ms. Ali asked students to heed the words from a video by Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, in which he reminded his audience to remain resilient despite the attacks on the Muslim community. In addition, she described the incredible amount of support Muslims have received from other communities, such as Facebook statuses and tweets of support from celebrities, flowers sent to mosques around the country, and encouraging calls of solidarity to the CIOGC office.
Ms. Ali concluded by encouraging students to get involved in the community and volunteer their time with local institutions, detailing the correlation between civic engagement with that of higher grades and self-esteem. Many students approached her and stated how much the presentation was appreciated, and how they left inspired after many months of feeling under siege.
Suemaya Haydar, Universal School student commented: “Most people who hate Muslims and Islam don’t know anything about the religion or even know a person of our faith. That being said, it is important for us to be active members in our communities and take it upon ourselves to reform our own actions and work to embody Muslim morals.”