Illinois Muslims ‘Action Day’ in State Capitol
By Ahmed Khan
On May 21, 2009 close to 500 American-Muslims from across Illinois traveled to Springfield to participate in the Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicagoâ€™s Muslim ACTION! Day. The event drew out Muslims of all sorts ranging from community leaders to high school students.
The issues that were advocated for were: pushing for public education funding reform, opposing online gambling in Illinois, advocating the reduction of greenhouse emission in Illinois and promoting investment in Green technology, and finally introduction of Arabic language instruction in all Illinoisâ€™ Public High Schools.
The day started early with breakfast at the Governorâ€™s Mansion where Muslim community leaders met with legislators. Among the legislators to attend the breakfast was Rep. Paul Froehlich (D) from the 56th District (which is the greater Schaumburg area). Rep. Froehlich is a co-sponsor of the â€œArabic language instruction in public schoolsâ€ resolution introduced by Senator Jacqueline Collins (D). Also attending the breakfast were Senator Mike Jacobs (D) from the 36th District (Quad City area) and Rep. Greg Harris from the 13th District (encompassing numerous North Side Chicago Mosques).
After the breakfast, more than 10 buses carrying 500 Muslims arrived at the Howlett Auditorium for a Kick Off Rally. The packed auditorium was buzzing with excitement and energy as the audience was engaged by CIOGC Chairman Dr. Zaher Sahloul, CIOGC Executive Director Junaid Afeef, and IMANâ€™s Executive Director Rami Nashashibi, who also serves on the CIOGC Executive Committee.
Sen. Dan Cronin (R) from the Islamic Foundation community, Rep. Paul Froehlich (D) from the Masjid Al-Huda community and Rep. David Miller (D) from the CMecca School community engaged the Muslims and gave an added boost to an already excited crowd. Salam Al-Marayati, Executive Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, flew in from Los Angeles to show solidarity with Muslims in Illinois and also spoke to the crowd.
After the Rally, participants headed out to the Statehouse to meet with their legislators. Many Muslims were able to meet with legislators including Sen. John Milner (R) from Bloomingdale and Senator William Delgado (D) from the 2nd District to discuss the issues that were being advocated for, but as both the House and Senate were in crucial budget session, those who were not able to see their legislators outside the chambers visited their legislative offices and hand-delivered literature on the issues directly to Legislative Aides.
Several leaders including CIOGC Chair Zaher Sahloul, Vice Chair Tasneem Osmani and Executive Committee member Bambade Shakoor-Abdullah visited with Rep. Tom Cross (R) and Sen. Christine Radogno (R) in previously scheduled meetings to personally discuss the issues.
While the community was advocating and engaging their legislators, six gifted young high school students from the American Muslim community spent the day as honorary Senate pages. Students from Universal School were also brought onto the Senate floor and honored by Sen. Ed Maloney (D).
Ahmed Khan is an Associate Organizer, CIOGC