CAIR-MI Seeks to Empower Muslims

By Beena Inam Shamsi

Canton–March 1–The Council on American Islamic Relations- Michigan Chapter (CAIR-MI) hosted a workshop, “How do we explain our faith,” devoted to empowering Muslims to respond to today’s most difficult questions about Islam and Muslims. Around 100 people attended on Saturday March 1, at the MCWS Mosque, Canton, Mich.

Dawud Walid, the executive director of the CAIR-MI, mentioned the importance of the event.

“This subject is of extreme importance because we as a Muslim community need to be more refined in how we discuss Islam with our fellow Americans,” Walid said.

Muzammil Ahmed, a board member of CAIR-MI, found that many Muslims don’t have a working knowledge of how to respond appropriately and effectively to their fellow Americans who have questions about Islam.

“They either say the wrong things or they don’t understand the purpose of the question and they don’t understand what information they need to provide,”Ahmed said.

Through a series of workshops at different mosques across Michigan and beyond, Ahmed hopes that they will be able to educate people of how to properly answer these questions and how to effectively engage their neighbors and co-workers to allow them to understand Islam and not have a distorted image.

During the workshop session, “Engaging the American Psyche” Nadia Bazzy, who has been speaking about Islam nationally since she was 16 and is currently working on a Masters degree in Washington DC, said one of the biggest problems we have is that we think of fellow Americans as “the other.”

“Redefine about how we think of ourselves. We are American so there is no ‘us and them’… So think of everyone as all being created by Allah (swt),” Bazzy said.

Sometimes when a person doesn’t know how to answer a question, it is ok to respond with another question, Bazzy said.

If someone asks her why she wears a hijab, she engages the person asking them,

“Why do you think I wear this? It is called hijab. Do you have any friends that wear hijab?” Bazzy said.

The second session of the workshop, “How to speak”, was conducted by Haaris Ahmad, a Board member of CAIR-MI. The session focused on how to communicate in context of public speaking, but most of all of talking on a one on one basis about Islam.

“We come out of the womb knowing how to communicate our basic needs, knowing how to tell others of what our basic needs are, but what happen after that, is as we get older, its gets harder and harder to communicate with other human beings,” Haaris Ahmad said.

Strategic inspirations, a marketing and consulting firm, is helping with the logistics of the workshops. It has been organizing, registering, taking care of the set up, the food and the program.

Abrar Founas, who along with Strategic inspirations helped coordinate the workshop, see these workshops as very important for the community.

“A lot of the Muslims in America in our community are mostly first or second generations and a lot of them don’t understand the American mindset because they are born and raised here so these workshops help them see the other side,” Founas said.

Walid answered the frequently asked questions about Islam and Muslims and in the end, after the dhuhr prayer, an interactive game, “Hot Seat” was presented, where audience members were asked questions about Islam.

“This is the first module of the ongoing program. We are going to get into the second module, which is going to be more intense on techniques of how to answer the more specific questions just for media. Techniques about how to answer … written, audio, through video,” Walid said.

CAIR-MI next workshop will be on March 15 in Lansing, Mich. It will also host its Annual Banquet on Saturday April 5, 2008 at The Islamic Center of America, in Dearborn, Mich. Tickets are $50 for individuals and $25 for students.

The keynote Speaker will be Sister Zarqa Nawaz, Creator and Producer of CBC TV’s #1 comedy sitcom, Little Mosque on The Prairie.


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