Gerald Hankerson, CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator, and Amina Sharif, the Communications Coordinator, presented to a religion and culture class at Northwestern University on Thursday, April 21. The two discussed the role race and ethnicity play in the American Muslim experience.
Sharif and Hankerson explained the demographics and group dynamics of the Muslim community, not only in terms of race but also education, political affiliation, historical experiences. They also compared the racial and ethnic composition of American Muslims to that of other faith groups in the U.S., such as Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists.
Sharif and Hankerson addressed many of the stereotypes that Muslims face and the discrimination complaints that are reported to CAIR. Gallup polls and Pew research studies were shared to highlight public opinion of Islam and Muslims which generated discussion on the root causes of prejudice and, by extension, discrimination. The data also highlighted a correlation between Americans who were familiar with Islam or personally knew Muslims were more likely to have a favorable view of the faith and its adherents.
“We would like to thank Professor Chen and Northwestern’s Asian American Studies Department for inviting us to speak to their students who were genuinely interested in developing a deeper understanding of the Muslim American community,” said Hankerson. “This visit is an example of how institutions of higher learning can help foster religious pluralism and an appreciation of our nation’s rich cultural diversity.”
Hankerson and Sharif shared their own experiences as Muslim Americans, along with their perspectives as community activists. The class engaged the speakers in a Q&A session and discussion.