Thursday, Sep 03 , 2015 ( Thul-Qedah, 1436)

Updated:10:00 PM GMT

Muslim Social Activism Fights Islamophobia

OnIslam & Newspapers

Social Activism-US Muslims-Naim Shah
“One of the solutions to Islamophobia is organizing around city-based issues,” Shah said.
US, activism, Islamophobia

CAIRO – Countering wrong perceptions about Islam, US Muslims are engaging themselves in community programs and social activities to turn the hostile tide against their community.

“One of the solutions to Islamophobia is organizing around city-based issues,” Naim Shah Jr, a professional accountant, told the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, January 1.

“Trying to deal with global issues can lead to entanglements.”

Over the past 15 years, Shah has been an active member in the Muslim community.

Being an assistant to the imam at Masjid Ibadallah, a mosque in Los Angeles, he helps with Friday sermons and religious classes.

He is also engaging with activities of other religious minorities to discuss issues of concern to American public.

Working with Christian and Jewish activists across Los Angeles in the past six months, he joined groups supporting the “responsible banking” ordinance, a law that urges banks that do business to modify mortgages and increase loans to small businesses.

He is also one of four paid trainees in Southern California and 16 nationwide who are completing a six-month Community Organizing Residency (COR), a program launched a year ago by Jewish Funds for Justice, a national nonprofit organization.

“Uniting around local issues can broaden understanding,” said Khan.

Arriving at his placement with the group LA Voice, an ecumenical federation that promotes civic action on the congregational level, Shah found that no mosques or Muslims are among its 24 faith-based organizations.

Acting to fix this, he managed within two weeks to plan 35 one-on-one meetings with Muslim scholars and successfully mobilize 70 Muslims to participate in a responsible-banking rally organized by LA Voice.

Several mosques also joined the group's network of churches and synagogues, which represents 30,000 families.

The United States is believed to be home to nearly seven million Muslims.


The American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute is also helping American Muslim leaders to adequately participate in public discourse.

“We are simply saying that Muslims should be part of the national conversation,” said Brie Loskota, a co-founder of the institute.

“It's part of religious pluralism in our country.”

The institute, a key sponsor of COR, also shares a partnership with a Muslim-Christian center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“We try to get Muslim leaders to think not just about their own community but how their community works in the larger society,” said Loskota.

The idea of the institute, which brings together Muslims of many backgrounds, including African Americans and Arab and Asian immigrants, was first proposed in 2005 by Loskata and the institute director Nadia Roumani.

“[We wished to] expand rather than contract the public square [and help Muslims get from] suspect to full citizens,” said Loskata.

“We found that Muslim leaders often don't know a process exists or how to participate in it.”

The institute offered help to Muslim leaders to get access to the larger US society.

“We have people attaining the highest levels of education and living the American dream but not feeling like they have a stake” in it, Loskota said.

“That's not good for our country.”

Engaging together in community programs, US Muslims and Jews were finding a new shared ground for dialogue.

“For those who say that the Jewish and Muslim communities can't work together, I have the program that says otherwise,” Simon Greer, president and chief executive of Jewish Funds for Justice, said.

“This is not interfaith discussion. It's not about finding two Jews, two Christians and two Muslims who know each other.”

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