By Urvashi Verma
In the wake of huge protests during Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s rally in Chicago earlier last month, more than 300 Chicago residents, including members from 30 different interfaith organizations and community groups, gathered at Fountain Square in Evanston March 20 to protest against Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The primary motivation for organizing the rally, according to community organizer Lesley William, was a recent incident on the Northwestern campus where two students were arrested for spray-painting racist and homophobic messages and swastikas across the faces of Muslim students with the name of Donald Trump.
“Clearly, even in our enlightened Evanston community, there is a need to speak out and speak up against bigotry. 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. We are proud to be standing with over 30 religious and community organization. We all stand against Islamophobia as good people refuse to let bigotry triumph,” said William.
Alia Ammar from the Muslim Community Center, Chicago, warned about the resurgence of Islamophobia, saying that repetitions of history must be avoided. “The resurgence of bigotry and Islamophobia promoted within the current presidential race is particularly concerning to people whose moral values embrace common humanity and who clearly understand that ‘never again’ applies to all people at all times,” she said.
Rabbi Michael Davis of Jewish Voice for Peace, who also spoke at the rally said, “we see this as just the beginning, a continuation of a campaign … communities across Chicago land and the U.S. will stand with Muslims and people of other faiths and take back the public square in the name of living in peace.”
Renner Larson, communications director for CAIR Chicago , said that “when Donald Trump came to this town, we rose our voices and chased him away, but he still won in Illinois”, referring to the Illinois Republican primary results.
Larson urged attendees to get involved in the democratic process, to campaign for candidates, who inspire them, and to form relationships with their local officials.
Other community leaders also spoke passionately against the anti-bigotry. The speakers included Jes Scheinpflug, communications director at Open communities, an economic and social justice organization in north suburban Chicago which promotes inclusive communities; Saffa Zarour, Board Member of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago; Tarek Khalil, member of the American Muslims for Palestine; Rev. Michael Nabors from the Second Baptist Church, and Tahera Ahmed, chaplain and director of Interfaith Engagement at Northwestern University who gave the closing remarks. After the rally volunteers canvassed the area encouraging small stores owners to display posters supporting refugees and denouncing racial and religious profiling.