Chicago Sun-Times: Go beyond stereotypes of Muslims

On July 19, a controversial conference organized by a group called Hizb ut-Tahrir took place in Oak Lawn. Titled "The Fall of Capitalism and Rise of Islam," the conference received media attention that mostly featured opinions of people who were afraid of a terrorist group convening in a Chicago suburb and concerns about yet another Muslim "threat" to our democracy. The mainstream Muslim community and its leaders also had much to say about this conference, but their responses received scant attention.

The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs finds it imperative to draw public attention to what the mainstream Muslim community had to say.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, JCUA has worked vigorously to bolster the Jewish-Muslim Community Building Initiative.

One of our earliest partners has been the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. Representing more than 50 Muslim organizations, the council made the mainstream Muslim case: "Hizb ut-Tahrir's point of view, their ideology, is completely 180 degrees opposite to what the mainstream Muslim community's views are on civic engagement," its executive director, Junaid Afeef, has said.

Another partner, the Council on American Islamic Relations, said that the conference conveners "are coming from a very ideological, very stringent perspective." According to executive director Ahmed Rehab, this perspective does not represent the logic or the views of the majority of Muslims. "Our daily work is our best response to these philosophies. Our work is about political and social enfranchisement of Muslims -- knowing their rights and their obligations under our Constitution that we all share regardless of background and faith," Rehab said.

We call upon all people of good faith to go beyond stereotypes that keep our communities separated. Alongside the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs stands a strong Muslim voice that embraces civic engagement and strives for a better society for all. Social justice is the promise that this country was founded on. It is up to us, collaboratively, to live up to it.

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