Inflammatory, divisive political rhetoric is what aroused DuPage County’s Muslims and non-Muslims to shape the narrative and take a stand. Calling residents to “Know Your Muslim Neighbor,” DuPage United organized the ‘We the People – Know your Muslim Neighbor’ event, the first in a series of public events. On Sunday afternoon, February 28, 850 people filled the hall at Shalimar Banquets. The event, was powerful and impressive: from inspiring messages, to influential speakers, to the sheer numbers who sat alternating, Muslim next to someone of another faith, discussing the questions posed from the podium in the one-on-one time.
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, along with member organizations like MECCA Center, the Islamic Center of Naperville, the Islamic Center of Wheaton, ICNA Relief, Muslim Society Inc., the Islamic Foundation and the Muslim Association of Bolingbrook, are all committed to the solidarity campaign and were heavily involved in the planning committee. The results of their dedication were evident at the launch event — the first step to build small bridges of understanding.
Further, several organizations committed to hosting Open Mosque Days (click here for listing), the dates and times of which were printed on participants’ agendas, to provide a chance to gain a deeper understanding of Islam and Muslims. The Open Mosque Days were one of many actions that attendees could commit to on the ‘commitment cards’ that were passed out, which served as a channel to garner the energy at the ‘We The People’ event. Attendees could also commit to civic engagement training, to be a part of the Rapid Response team and many other opportunities to remain involved.
DuPage United invited three keynote speakers to share their moving stories of courage: Dr. Larycia Hawkins, former professor at Wheaton College, Mr. Mohsin Ishaq, Muslim Student Association (MSA) president at IIT, and Reverend James Honig, Pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn.
“Tolerance, you may think, is just a mantra. But we do need to go beyond merely tolerating one another to loving one another and affirming one another,” Dr. Hawkins said. “What I see in our young people is a kind of hope, and it’s not a naive hope. It’s a belief and an understanding that we are one.”
Standing with other religions does not nullify her own faith, Dr. Hawkins said. Rather, her actions were intended to demonstrate love.
“That’s what solidarity means – standing with our Muslim neighbors,” she said. “If we don’t stand with them, we stand with no one.”
Tony Michelassi, a member of the DuPage County Board, representing District 5 since 2008, shared his reflections on the event: “I was very pleased to attend DuPage United’s event, ‘We the People.’ This event is a part of their ongoing Solidarity Campaign, which encourages all DuPage residents to learn about their Muslim neighbors and stand with them when the language of hate and bigotry rears its ugly head.
The success of the launch event is reflective of the community’s eagerness to get to know each other on a deeper level and to stand in solidarity with its Muslim neighbors. This is the opportunity for us to harness the power of unity and together defeat hate and fear.