An estimated 350-400 people gathered in Evanston on December 15 to show their solidarity with our Muslim neighbors throughout Chicago’s northern suburbs.
Organized by Lesley Williams, an Evanstonian, and co-sponsored by about a dozen local organizations, the event began with a blessing from Tahera Ahmad, the Associate Chaplain and Director of Interfaith Engagement at Northwestern University.
Renner Larson of Council on American Islamic Relations talked about the many contributions of Muslims as integral members of our communities.
Bushra Amiwala, a senior at Niles North high school, concluded her speech by saying, “We may be unaware of these things since it doesn’t directly affect us, but we are one nation, one city, one community, one family. And if Islamophobia affects one of us, it affects us all. I have been blessed to be encapsulated in such an accepting community filled with diversity and such open minded, accepting people. A school where we can come together during a time of disparity and sit in a safe space. We are the generation of change, so together, let’s create a more beautiful tomorrow.”
Gabriel Machabanski, Open Communities’ Fair Housing Testing and Education Coordinator, challenged us to “[l]et us resolutely condemn the anti-immigrant sentiment, anti-blackness, antisemitism, homophobia & transphobia, among other forms of intolerance…. and take a stand against the increasing disgusting rhetoric that is running rampant with the media at its mouthpiece… Showing up is the first step. Building community is the next, as well as making our voices of indignation heard in response to the current political climate. This is a window of opportunity to turn up for our neighbors in difficult times, and work together to build a community around all its people.” The crowd joined him in chanting- The people united shall never be defeated!
Before reading the pledge as a group, Rev Michael Nabors, Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church of Evanston, reminded us that history has shown us that “truth is on the side of the oppressed.”
Lesley Williams led us as our voices carried throughout downtown Evanston, reading the pledge.
As Americans of many faiths, we are shocked and horrified to hear calls for a “registry” of Muslims in the United States, shutting down mosques, or restrictions on immigration based on religion. Mounting Islamophobic rhetoric has led to increasing numbers of attacks on Muslims in the US, yet respect for all religions is a quintessential American value, enshrined not only in the US Constitution but in the platforms of both major political parties. We vow to hold our public officials accountable.
In the words of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, no one should “suffer on account of his religious opinion or belief, but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion”.
We therefore pledge:
To call on all political candidates and public officials to refrain from defaming Islam and Muslims, and from advocating or implementing religiously discriminatory policies.
To combat anti-Muslim speech and discrimination wherever we see it.
To affirm by words and deeds the human and civil rights of all Americans, immigrants and refugees, no matter their religion.
Eileen Heineman of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore gave next steps followed by Sana Khan of Forwarding Humanity inviting people to break bread with Muslims.
Co-sponsors, Stand Against Islamophobia:
American Friends Service Committee
Beth Emet, the Free Syngagogue
Chicago Area Peace Action (CAPA)
Council on American Islamic Relations – Chicago
Evanston Neighbors for Peace
Interfaith Action of Evanston
Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation of Evanston
Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago
Lake Street Church of Evanston
Northshore Coalition for Peace, Justice and the Environment
Second Baptist Church of Evanston
Unitarian Church of Evanston
YWCA Evanston/North Shore
Photo credit to Jill Norton & Richard Cahan
More coverage (updated 12/17/2015, 2:08pm):
Evanston Patch: Pro-Muslim Rally Planned for Evanston’s Fountain Square
WBEZ: Being Muslim in America Today
Evanston Now: Pro-Muslim rally at Fountain Square
WGN: Rally Stands With Muslims Against Islamophobia
Chicago Monitor: While the GOP Debates, Evanston Rallies Against Islamophobia
Daily Northwestern: City leaders, citizens rally against Islamophobia
Evanston Review: In wake of ‘hate rhetoric,’ organizers host Rally Against Islamophobia
Evanston RoundTable: Evanstonians Stand in Unity With American Muslims