Dear Friends and Supporters of CAIR-Philadelphia, Asalaam Alaykum:
It is Year 2 of the COVID Era.
During these waning days of 2021, one could not help but notice how the strangeness of our times had come to feel frighteningly commonplace. The fashion-statement masks; the conspiratorial proselytizing from the fringes, and the long lines of those seeking testing, then vaccination, then the booster; a multifaceted public health challenge that is still subject to increased polarization, all the while impacting the most vulnerable.
The public square fared no better. The year began with the first armed invasion of the US Capitol since the War of 1812. Five people died in this blatant attempt to overthrow the results of the election of a new president of the United States. Plainly put, the January 6th Insurrection was no mere riot, but a nationally organized attack on American democracy itself.
Now, it has been said by some Muslims that all of what is described above should be of no particular concern to Muslims in America. Their arguments goes that we should simply lay low, remain unengaged, and enjoy whatever privilege we may have.
CAIR begs to differ. First, because CAIR-Philadelphia is the only local organization that provides free legal service to American Muslims who have been discriminated against, or faced harassment, or been physically attacked, all because they follow the faith of Islam or belong to a racial or ethnic minority.
In 2021, our office continued to identify new ways we could continue our ongoing fight against Islamophobia, racism, xenophobia, and bigotry in the midst of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite lingering limitations and restrictions from COVID protocols, our office still found effective methods to meet the legal needs of individuals and organizations seeking legal representation to resolve various instances of discrimination based on religion, race/ethnicity, and/or national origin. Our Civil Rights Attorney Timothy Welbeck, together with assistance from Leena Jaffer, our Operations and Marketing Manager, met with nearly 100 community members, each with a specific complaint of workplace harassment, religious discrimination, or school bullying.
Second, CAIR believes, following in the historic footsteps of the celebrated African American civil rights movement, that the struggle for justice requires a multi-faceted strategy that combines education, civic engagement, voter registration, community organizing, coalition building, and civil disobedience to defeat the threat of Islamophobia to American Muslims.
Third, justice is at the heart of Islamic tradition, and therefore at the heart of CAIR-Philadelphia as well. We dare not turn our backs on those in need, or those living under occupation or oppression, and so in the last year we have marched for Palestine, the Rohingya, the Uyghurs, and against police violence.
Fourth, we are buoyed the knowledge that our work is being recognized as beneficial and worthy of support, such as our School Districts Project that received funding from the Philadelphia Foundation and others to develop student leadership. Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu, CAIR-Philadelphia’s indefatigable Director of Education and Outreach, crisscrossed the Greater Delaware Valley, meeting with hundreds of Muslim community members from Harrisburg to North Penn, from Bucks County to Lancaster, on a wide range of issues crucial to our communities.
We continue to build relationships with local elected officials and like-minded organizations to work on real change. In 2021, we continued to work with mosques and Islamic schools to ensure their safety needs can be met through security grants provided by the State of Pennsylvania.
We again collaborated with partners such as ICNA Relief Pennsylvania and Muslim Aid Initiative to connect our communities to COVID-19 resources, and joined Haverford College’s Contest of the Fruits project, exploring Uyghur culture and traditions. We also started organizing immigration law clinics thanks to a grant from our partner Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. Our work is incessant, and there is much more to be done. A special thank you to Leena Jaffer for the much-needed redesign of our website (pa.cair.com), and to Asiyah Jones, CAIR-Philadelphia’s new Coordinator for Youth and Advocacy Projects, who inspires us to remember how great it was to once have been both young and an activist.
Please remember: it is your tax-deductible donations that make our work possible. Even a modest amount can assist in our mission to uphold justice and to ensure that civil rights, your civil rights, are being protected. We need YOU to make this possible in the future.
For those who have supported CAIR-Philadelphia in the past, we are grateful. If you are joining us as a new donor, we extend a warm, heartfelt welcome!
CAIR-PA Board Chair
CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director
CAIR-Philadelphia Youth Leadership and Advocacy Projects Coordinator