In 2007 CAIR-Pennsylvania received 57 civil rights complaints ranging from immigration delays to employment discrimination to public accommodation. CAIR-Pennsylvania’s most high profile case involves aiding a Philadelphia Police Officer in her struggle for a religious accommodation to wear a headscarf while in uniform.
Through the efforts of the newly hired Director of Civil Rights, CAIR-Pennsylvania was able to secure this police officer representation by two pro-bono attorneys. CAIR-Pennsylvania also arranged for the drafting of an amicus brief in support of the officer’s appeal and rallied 9 additional organizations to sign on. Another employment discrimination success included securing an accommodation from a Pittsburgh area restaurant to provide a Muslim employee with the time to break fast during Ramadan. In a separate case CAIR-Pennsylvania’s Director of Civil Rights teamed up with a central Pennsylvania community activist to persuade a supply chain management company to re-hire 16 Muslim employees who walked off the job over a new policy that prevented them from praying and provide them a 15-minute break to perform pray. On the immigration delay front, CAIR-Pennsylvania was able to refer several individuals to a few trusted immigration attorneys who could provide the required legal assistance.
Throughout 2007, CAIR-Pennsylvania hosted and attended numerous interfaith events. These events helped to promote understanding between people of different religions in order to uphold peace and prosperity in our communities.
Twice in January CAIR-Pennsylvania held interfaith dialogues with West Goshen Friends where topics such as habeas corpus and torture were discussed in addition to discussions comparing Islamic beliefs with Quaker values, and current tensions between the Western and Muslim worlds. In August CAIR-Pennsylvania gave a presentation at the Lutheran Theological Seminary on Interfaith Work and Islam. CAIR-Pennsylvania provided speakers to participate in a forum sponsored by the Peace Movement of Chester County which sought to find common ground for people of faith and promote better understanding between persons of differing viewpoints.
COURSES AND PRESENTATIONS ON ISLAM, THE QUR’AN AND MUSLIMS
In 2007, CAIR-Pennsylvania continued to offer its ten-part course called “Understanding Islam & Muslims through History and Jurisprudence,” at various religious and cultural centers. This course, which approaches Islam from a historical and jurisprudence perspective, covers the Golden Age of Muslim civilization and its decline; contemporary issues faced by Islam and Muslims; and the ramifications of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world.
CAIR-Pennsylvania also offered other presentations to various high schools and middle schools in the area; introducing them to Islam. In February CAIR-Pennsylvania gave a presentation on Islam and Muslims to middle school children at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County. In May CAIR-Pennsylvania, in partnership with a youth group from the Islamic Society of Chester County (ISCC) offered also this presentation to 8th grade students from Jewish Community High School. In November, CAIR-Pennsylvania invited students from Conestoga High School to a mosque in Villanova, PA to learn about Islam and Muslims. In December CAIR-Pennsylvania shared information on Islamic holidays at the Springton Lake Middle School. Finally, throughout the year several workshops designed to provide a basic introduction to Islam were held at several other religious centers by CAIR-Pennsylvania.
This year our community outreach efforts included programs ranging from community service to events raising public awareness to film viewings to presentations on CAIR-Pennsylvania itself. In March CAIR-Pennsylvania held a lecture entitled “American Muslims: What is the future”, where Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations and Director of the Islamic Studies Program at the University of Delaware, described the prospects of future life for American Muslims.
Also in March, CAIR-Pennsylvania held a presentation on CAIR-Pennsylvania’s work, as well as the efforts of CAIR-National in the U.S. Rounding out March, CAIR-Pennsylvania presented findings from a survey commissioned by CAIR national whose goal was to understand Americans’ opinions on Muslims, to identify key variables leading to anti-Muslim prejudice, and to identify ways in which this prejudice can be combated. CAIR-Pennsylvania also collaborated on a new mural depicting diversity in various faiths, presented by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. In June 2007 over twenty Muslim students from the Philadelphia area participated in painting this mural. CAIR-Pennsylvania’s help was enlisted to help develop the mural design and to recruit these volunteers.
In November 2007 CAIR-Pennsylvania gave a presentation which described of the effects of Islamophobia to the Interfaith Dialog Group at Shir Ami Synagogue in Newtown.
Islamophobia is an alarming, quickly growing and extremely harmful phenomenon in which people target Muslims and Islam based on an unfounded fear and hostility toward Islam. During this presentation some background information was provided on this increasingly dangerous phobia, and questions about how to stem the tide both in the world in general and in particular in our own community were answered.