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Discussion tackles challenges, opportunities facing Muslim community

Community gathers for ‘Muslims in America’ presentation

Michael Agbabiaka

Michael Agbabiaka

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Civil rights activist Ahmed Rehab encouraged the UIS community to gain a better understanding of Muslims in America by recognizing their similarities instead of highlighting their differences. “If [people] want to understand me, they should just look in the mirror.”

“We’re reflections of one another,” continued Rehab. “If we’re able to cut through the wrappers… what’s inside is essentially the same.”

These remarks were given as part of the “Muslims in America” discussion hosted at UIS last Thursday. The event featured a Q&A with Rehab, followed by a lecture about the challenges that Muslims face in America today as well as the work that is being done to support them.

Rehab discussed several challenges that the Muslim American community has faced since the election of Donald Trump, including misrepresentation in the media, dissemination of stereotypes, increased threats of violence, and a cultural disconnect from non-Muslim Americans.

He also stressed the diversity in the Muslim community, highlighting that only 22 percent of Muslims in the United States are Arab, despite the images shown in the media.

Rehab is the co-founder and executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Chicago. CAIR is a Chicago-based Muslim civil rights organization that offers legal support to Muslims facing discrimination. They also work with media partners to reshape the image of Muslim Americans, which Rehab believes is important to challenge Islamophobia.

“The idea is to normalize the image of Muslims,” Rehab said. 

Rehab was first inspired to begin work in civil rights after he perceived a lack of accurate media representation following 9/11.

“I figured that instead of just complaining, I should provide … what I envision to be a better representation.” Before beginning work in civil rights, Rehab worked as a software engineer for a Fortune 500 company.

To learn more about CAIR Chicago and its mission, visit www.cairchicago.org.

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Discussion tackles challenges, opportunities facing Muslim community