Year in Review 2016
Assalamu alaikum (Peace be upon you),
I would like to thank each and every one of you for your trust and support. I am moved; I am honored; it is my privilege to serve our community. Looking back, it has been an overwhelming year with its heart-wrenching downs, but it has also been a year with its heart-warming ups.
CAIR-Alabama grew tenfold. We inaugurated our office. We began an internship and volunteer program. We assisted families, worked with communities, built relationships with organizations, and challenged and responded effectively to heightened Islamophobia in a divisive election year. We were at the forefront in the fight against fear, bigotry, and xenophobia confronting our communities in Alabama. For every setback, we came back with renewed resolve because we had your support every step of the way. After every victory, we increased our focus knowing the steep challenges ahead.
Here's a Glimpse into CAIR-AL's Civil Rights Work in 2016
Was a co-signatory in the amicus brief filed by Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) against Governor Bentley’s federal anti-refugee lawsuit. Alabama sued the federal government to force it to consult with the state before placing refugees in Alabama. The case was dismissed, a decision the state has since appealed. We joined forces with other immigrant advocates to submit an amicus brief in the 11th circuit appeals court to contest the state's position. Governor Bentley has called refugees from Syria “terrorists” coming from a “terrorist nation," a label we fought against as the darkest and most contemptible human rights crisis unfolded in the year 2016.
Handled civil rights complaints from members of the Muslim community who had been approached by FBI agents showing up at work or home for questioning, increasing fear in the community of surveillance and harassment. In every case, the community member was assisted and the issues resolved after interjection and representation.
Fought and exposed anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric of Congressman Mo Brooks of the Fifth District of Alabama. The congressman repeatedly made Islamophobic statements at different public platforms and local media. CAIR-Alabama issued an action alert generating calls to the congressman’s office and signatures asking the congressman to retract. Congressman Brooks has yet to retract; however, he invited the local Islamic center members for a meeting. This became national news highlighting the Congressman’s past Islamophobic commentary and policy positions.
Exposed and fought Police Chief of Gurley’s Islamophobic facebook posts. The Mayor of Gurley responded by agreeing to host diversity training for the police department and to set up a meeting with the local Islamic center to build relationships with the Muslim community and increase mutual understanding. The town’s police department will receive diversity training from CAIR-Alabama in the beginning of 2017.
Assisted members of the Muslim community who were trying to build a mosque that had faced intense opposition from the local community and public officials, resulting in approval by the zoning board.
Assisted school children facing bullying in schools.
Assisted families, and individuals with bias claims against employers and co-workers.
We also doubled our efforts to counter fear by giving Know Your Rights trainings and holding Islamophobia workshops. We met with State Department, private employers, and social justice organizations to develop policies upholding the constitution and rights of all people. We went to university campuses, churches, and community centers to increase understanding about Islam and Muslims. We mobilized the Muslim vote by holding registration drives, phone banks, and an educational candidate forum. We worked hard on challenging stereotypes of Muslim women.
Looking Ahead: Our Plan for Year 2017
We have an ambitious plan in the coming year geared towards changing hearts and minds about our Muslim neighbors. According to most recent surveys, Muslims are the most disfavored group in the US and the target of highest bias and hate incidents. Our goal is simple: engage even, or especially, when it's uncomfortable through challenging negative perceptions, and raise awareness by sharing the rich and diverse American Muslim experience.
How do we do it?
Develop programs that help increase mutual understanding and foster partnerships that build community.
Strengthen civil rights and social justice advocacy work
Prioritize government relations and policy efforts
Launch outreach campaigns concentrating on schools, universities, and interfaith communities
However, that is not all. You have a vital role to play. I ask you to take the message of justice, community, and solidarity to your communities, to your friends, and to your families. It is imperative, now more than ever that we as individuals do our part in standing up for justice and equality for all.
Finally, I would like to thank all those who came out to stand with us in solidarity at CAIR-Alabama’s first annual banquet on December 3rd. It was a memorable, heart-warming gathering of friends of the community. Thank you for lifting us up and celebrating our work.
With a full heart and clarity of purpose I welcome the new year knowing there is no challenge too great when we all come together.
In peace and solidarity,