In the face of today’s prominent hate speech, it takes courage to join forces in a public display in solidarity with Muslims against Islamophobia and bigotry. But it takes even more courage to go door to door to ask store owners to hang posters displaying the message: “Stop Profiling Muslims” “Refugees Welcome” and “Everyone is welcome” – because that kind of commitment is up front and center, face to face and in your face kind of support, and it takes a different kind of courage. This is what over 200 people gathered in Evanston’s Fountain Square to do on March 20, 2016.
At 2:00 p.m., Fountain Square had filled up with people from all backgrounds but with a common and united goal: A statement against bigotry of all kinds. With over 30 faith-based organizations organizing and sponsoring the rally, the lead organizer being Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), the speaker line up was rich and diverse. In addition to CIOGC Vice Chair Mr. Safaa Zarzour, Dr. Alia Ammar (Muslim Community Center), Jes Scheinpflug (Open Communities), Rabbi Michael Davis and Ms. Lesley Williams (Jewish Voices for Peace), Mr. Renner Larson (CAIR Chicago), Reverend Michael Nabors (Second Baptist Evanston), Mr. Tareq Khalil (American Muslims for Palestine) and Ms. Tahera Ahmad (Northwestern University Muslim Chaplain) also delivered powerful messages of unity, power politics, our role and the worrisome times we are encountering. Mr. Zarzour reminded us that Muslims are not the first group to be targeted and that we are the most recent target in America’s history of those people who profess hate to advance their agendas.
“Make no mistake: the bigotry that profiles Muslim men at checkpoints, rips hijabs off Muslim women, or calls for mass deportations of the undocumented is the same bigotry that results in young black men dead in police custody, in harassment and threats against gay or transgender students, and in toddlers drowning because they cannot find asylum,” said Ms. Lesley Williams. “I’m proud to be standing with over 30 religious and community organizations, who differ on certain issues, but who are united in their condemnation of racial and religious bigotry, and of anyone who exploits bigotry for political ends.”
Ms. Tahera Ahmad emphasized that we may think that communities like Evanston are free from bigotry and hate, but that may be blanketing the truth. “This past Saturday, two Northwestern students were arrested for spray painting the university chapel with racist, homophobic slurs, and painting swastikas over the faces of Muslim students. Clearly, even in our ‘enlightened’ Evanston community, there is a need to speak out and speak up against bigotry,” said Ms. Williams.
After the rally, participants separated into groups and canvassed the streets of Evanston, asking local businesses to hang posters that support the cause. The instruction was to partner with someone you know then join a group of people you don’t know. This made the canvassing experience a great opportunity to know one another. This is the second anti-Islamophobia event in Evanston spearheaded by Ms. Lesley Williams and Mr. Micheal Deheeger of Jewish Voices for Peace. In December, there was a similar rally organized in Fountain Square and the group is already looking to put together another event. With the GOP underway, the need for changing the narrative is ever needed.
Event Press Release – Click here
Full List of Sponsors & Organizers:
American Friends Service Committee – Chicago American Muslims for Palestine – Chicago Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East Beth Emet CAIR-Chicago Chicago Area Peace Action Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) First Congregational Church of Evanston, UCC Freedom First International SCLC GCE Lab School Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation Jewish Voice for Peace – Chicago Latino Resources Main Street Alliance Midwest Young Artists Conservatory Muslim Community Center North Suburban Teachers Union Open Communities People Encouraging Acceptance thru Communication & Education Peaceful Communities Public Interest Fundraising Rainbow/PUSH Coalition Roman Catholic Order of the Society of the Divine Word at Techny Second Baptist Church St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church Tzedek Chicago Unitarian Church of Evanston YWCA Evanston/Northshore.