CAIR-Chicago is the main office of the Illinois chapter of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) serving the neighboring Midwest. CAIR is the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.
CAIR-Chicago is a not-for-profit organization registered in Illinois. Though it leverages the resources, expertise, and knowledgebase of CAIR (based in Washington), it functions as an independent organization that sets its own strategy and goals.
Our work at CAIR-Chicago spans four different areas.
Firstly, we deal with civil rights issues, taking up complaints ranging from bigoted gestures to official discrimination against Muslims. We create logs for incidents and pursue the appropriate remedying measures which can range from cultural sensitivity training for the perpetrating party to all out legal measures. We also record every case and release reports to educate the public about the civil rights plight of Muslims.
Secondly, we are involved in political empowerment helping community members understand and utilize the political system to work for them. Projects include voter registration drives, community workshops, “know your rights” educational campaigns, and training of mosques and Muslim centers on how to contact local and national politicians.
Thirdly, we are involved in media monitoring. We monitor the local media closely and flag bias against Muslims. We respond accordingly to editors and producers with letters, phone calls, or meetings. We mobilize the community in letter writing campaigns to reinforce feedback sent to the media.
Lastly, we are involved in community outreach. We forge mutually beneficial partnerships with local and national institutions whose activities overlap with CAIR-Chicago’s in order to maximize efficiency. We work to empower the Muslim community and to foster an understanding between Chicago’s Muslim and non-Muslim communities via public education, and to serve the needs of the Chicagoland community via public service.
CAIR-Chicago Aspires to be:
- Credible: Gain the trust and respect of all involved.
- Consistent: Our level of motivation and productivity should not waiver with time. The attention given to the various areas of our work should be even.
- Professional: Level-headed, objective, presentable, attractive.
- Proactive: Create programs that predict and preemptively challenge potential problems.
- Omnipresent: Our presence and our programs should enjoy high exposure both with members of the Muslim community, the general public, the media, and government.
- Targeted/Focused: Well-defined problem areas and solutions.
- Transparent: What you see is what you get.
- Efficient: No redundancies. Putting the right people in the right place at the right time.
- Egalitarian/Fair-minded: Reach out to support non-Muslims who face similar grievances as our own, or who see similar values to our own being challenged.
- Accessible: Easy to find and reach whether by members of our community, or by members of the media.
- Sincere: What fuels our work is not personal ego or a hidden agenda, but a genuine desire to effectuate positive change.
At CAIR-Chicago, we wish to avoid being a traditional organization; rather, we make an effort to enlist maverick approaches in our work.
Firstly, we want to leverage the potent power of the volunteer base in our community. We have set up a powerful system to recruit and place volunteers in the right place at the right time leading to maximum efficiency. We take into consideration each volunteer’s talents, set of skills, and interests and then place them accordingly in a project, so that it is simple plug-and-play. This also makes volunteering with us enjoyable for them and not merely a chore. We regard them as community activists, and not simply volunteers. We believe in clearly defined goals for each project, and setting milestones so that progress is tangible and measurable.
Secondly, we wish to bypass conventional barriers that have plagued our community in the past. We wish to dissolve the generational, class, and racial gaps by stressing the common aspirations and challenges that face us all. Huge progress has been done in bypassing such barriers in the first few months of our recent inception. We are especially keen to see the gap between the transnational (mostly Arab and South Asian) and indigenous (mostly African-American) Muslim communities dissolve.
We also are very vigilant in avoiding potential pitfalls that usually create tension and rifts in the Muslim community, such as dogmatic disagreements between religious currents or schools of thought. We are not a religious organization in that we don’t issue decrees, nor interpret religious text for the people. We are a community services organization and as such we wish to serve with integrity and professionalism any party that sees itself as Muslim. A clear and dominant theme in our work is inclusion.
CAIR-Chicago is a different kind of organization. Though it officially launched January 5th, 2005, the vision and strategy of its board and staff are already cause for high expectations and excitement. Its track record over the “incubation” period between September 2004 and the launch date speaks of a bright future.
We hope that we can work together.
– CAIR-Chicago Team