COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS CONDEMN ISLAMOPHOBIA AMID A RISE IN ANTI-MUSLIM BIGOTRY AND HATE CRIMES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 19, 2016
Chicago, IL – A broad coalition of organizations, including Center for New Community (CNC), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Chicago Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), and South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI), strongly condemn the rise of rhetoric, hate crimes and discrimination targeting Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim.
Last week, news broke of an appalling Islamophobic attack on two Muslim women in West Rogers Park. Siham Zahdan and Suzanne Damra, mother and daughter, reported being verbally and physically attacked by a woman from their neighborhood on Thursday, August 12, 2016. The attacker spit on and verbally harassed the women while they were walking to their vehicle. Video footage of the incident shows the attacker shouting obscenities and slurs at the women and calling them “ISIS.” The attacker was also physically violent, kicking their car and damaging the side view mirrors. In an official press release the next day CAIR-Chicago called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this attack as a hate crime and are continuing to work with Suzanne and Siham to investigate this case.
CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab says that this attack comes during a time of heightened Islamophobia which has spiked since the first presidential nominees were announced for the current election cycle.
The community organizations issuing the statement are united in taking active steps against efforts to denigrate any person or group because of their religion, ethnicity or skin color. The harmful rhetoric and violence targeting the Muslim community is reprehensible and cannot be tolerated.
“We need leadership now more than ever. While elected officials and community leaders have a special obligation to lead and denounce Islamophobia, each and every one of us must speak out against discrimination and intolerance and stand in solidarity with the Muslim community,” said Reema Kapur, Executive Director of SAAPRI. “It is time to talk to our friends and family about the divisive rhetoric used in everyday conversation and about the anti-Muslim comments being made by politicians and the media. It is time to call out those who make racist comments and believe in racial stereotypes. These hate crimes will not stop if we do not all take a stand against them.”
“While these anti-Muslim sentiments are nothing new, over the past few months it seems to have become increasingly acceptable to express such views openly,” said Esther Mack, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago’s Anti-Islamophobia Working Group. “Many Jews know from personal experience what it is to be targeted because of religion or race, and to be publicly scapegoated and humiliated. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim brethren in the face of these increasingly public bigoted attacks.”
“These attacks in Rogers Park, along with the recent case of Chicago Police violence against a young Muslim woman, remind us that we all have work to do in this city to keep each other safe,” said Debbie Southorn, program associate with the American Friends Service Committee. “In a city with a long-standing history of racist police violence, we know we can’t count on policing to provide genuine safety for our Muslim community members. An escalation in hateful rhetoric and attacks means that we all have work to do to be better neighbors and stop racist and Islamophobic violence at its roots.”
“While Muslim communities, and those perceived to be Muslim, face increased incidences of interpersonal violence, they are also threatened by state policies including unwarranted surveillance, racial profiling, increased militarization in law enforcement, restrictive immigration and refugee policy,” said Terri A. Johnson, executive director at the Center for New Community. “Again, two Muslim women were attacked; this time close to home. While we say their names and defend their right to be safe, we must push back against the anti-Muslim agenda that helped create the climate where this attack could happen.”
“As Muslims in this country, Islamophobia is the new normal for us—it is something that we experience every day we leave our homes or turn on our televisions,” says CAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator Hoda Katebi. “The recent violence against Muslim women in Rogers Park or murder of Imams in New York or the shooting of a young Muslim man in Oklahoma are the constant painful reminders that our safety is not only constantly disregarded and irrelevant for law enforcement, but that I will never know if tomorrow when someone calls me a terrorist they won’t also have a loaded gun in their pocket, thanks to media, police, and politicians that have normalized and heightened Islamophobia in the USA.
SAAPRI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established in 2001 to improve the lives of South Asian Americans in the Chicago area, by using research to formulate equitable and socially responsible public policy.
The Center for New Community is a national research and advocacy organization established in 1995. CNC tracks organized racist movements in the United States and challenges them to work toward building a just society that values the inherent dignity of all people.
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action.
Jewish Voice for Peace is a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality, and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 200,000 online supporters, over 60 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.
CAIR-Chicago is the main office of the Illinois chapter of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.