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Saturday, March 24, 2018
Organizing and Its Subsequent Power Are Within Our Community’s Reach
April 13, 2005
Months ago, the Muslim community living in the Village of Orland Park, a Chicago suburb on the southwest side, envisioned the construction of a mosque in its vibrant neighborhood. The Muslim community applied for zoning licenses and received the appropriate go-ahead from the President and Trustees of the village by a unanimous vote of 7-0 in favor. And yet, there were small pockets of individuals in the village who were against the construction of a Muslim place of worship for reasons ranging from Islamophobia to fear of terrorism. The unwarranted resistance to the construction of a Muslim house of worship by this small segment of the Orland Park community at-large became an integral issue around which the Muslims of Orland Park decided to organize themselves.
During this same time period leading up to the national elections on November 2, 2004, CAIR-Chicago’s Director of Governmental Relations, Fadi Farhan, and the Muslim Civil Rights Center (MCRC) were involved in a citywide coalition of ethnic-, faith-, and community-based organizations’ efforts organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) to register to vote and mobilize to vote, respectively, several underserved communities in Chicagoland, including the Muslim communities near the Mosque Foundation in the southwest suburbs and the Muslim Community Center (MCC) of Albany Park in Chicago.
CAIR-Chicago’s Farhan utilized the fervor of the national election and the Orland Park mosque issue to begin formally and systematically organizing the Muslim community of Orland Park around its local issues so that the community’s current and future relationships with publicly elected officials would continue to be mutually beneficial for years to come. With the support of an energetic team of dedicated volunteers and benefactors whose individual and collective contributions of time and effort deserve more recognition than can be expressed in this article, the Orland Park Muslim community and CAIR-Chicago’s Governmental Relations Department systematically accomplished the following: they calculated the number of already registered Muslim voters in Orland Park; they documented each registered Muslim voter’s contact information; they registered a significant number of new Muslim voters prior to the April 5, 2005 election and documented the contact information; they facilitated and manned a phone banking operation that reminded potential voters to go to the polls on both Election Days; and they conducted a Get Out the Vote (GOTV) drive for the November 2 and April 5 elections that culminated in the direct mobilization of Muslim households to the polls.
The significance of the organization effort is apparent in the numbers. Before the mobilization effort, approximately 700 Muslim voters were registered in the village; after the mobilization, approximately 1,000 eligible Muslim voters, a 40% increase, are registered. Of approximately 9,000 voters who go to the polls in the average mayoral election in the village, approximately 1,000, or 11.1%, of the potential average voting population for local elections is now American Muslim. In a contested race, 11.1% is a significant percentage of the total average voting population and can swing an election toward or away from a candidate. In the April 5 election, the CAIR-Chicago volunteer corps in Orland Park directly organized and mobilized approximately 150 Muslim households to the polls through door-to-door volunteers and a simultaneous phone banking operation.
CAIR-Chicago’s Governmental Relations Department will continue to organize pockets of Muslim communities in Chicagoland and is looking forward to using the lessons learned in Orland Park as the archetype for continued successful organizing efforts around the city. With regard to the continued mobilization efforts, Director of Governmental Relations, Fadi Farhan, stated, “There are an estimated 400,000 Muslims living in Chicagoland; we must utilize the ethnic and racial diversity of our community to our collective advantage. If the goal is real political empowerment, then this is the next necessary step for the community. Organization and its subsequent power are within our community’s reach.”
Governmental Relations Intern
CAIR-Chicago is seeking a dynamic and intelligent person who is interested in political science and/or public policy to become the next Governmental Relations Intern for the expanding scope of the Governmental Relations Department. The Governmental Relations Intern will work closely with Fadi Farhan, CAIR-Chicago’s Director of Governmental Relations, in the analysis of complex local, state, and federal level political issues as they pertain to the Chicagoland Muslim community.
The Governmental Relations Intern will also assist in the following as each pertains to the community: political strategy formulation, voter organization and mobilization of the local Muslim population, outreach to Muslim and non-Muslim community organizations, the development of effective relationships with publicly elected officials, and the writing and editing of pertinent documents. The Governmental Relations Intern will be expected to have superior English language speaking and writing skills. CAIR-Chicago will work to accommodate a qualified candidate’s work or university schedule. Interested individuals should send curriculum vitae and cover letters to Dina Rehab, Outreach Coordinator, at email@example.com.