MINNEAPOLIS (Jam. 26, 2016) — The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) announced today that it has received a number of grants to address the growing Islamophobia with expanded education and outreach initiatives.
According to CAIR-MN, Muslims in Minnesota have reported more than 30 incidents of intimidation, threats, bullying and harassment since mid-November.
“Islamophobia is real,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of CAIR-MN. “It is much more than some comments made by politicians. It is something that is creating a very unsafe environment in our Muslim communities.”
CAIR-MN recently asked several local foundations to help it cover $100,000 in unbudgeted expenses associated with the increased demand for its services. In particular, the civil rights group has responded to more requests to protect civil liberties and encourage dialogue at a time of heightened tensions and when many Minnesota Muslims have feared for their safety.
In response, The Saint Paul Foundation and F. R. Bigelow Foundation have made grants totaling $57,500 to help CAIR-MN cover costs for additional legal fees, outreach and community training activities. Additionally, the Tom and Pat Grossman Fund of the Minnesota Community Foundation has also pledged up to $25,000 in the form of a matching grant, if CAIR-MN can raise another $25,000 for its outreach work.
In particular, the grants will help CAIR-MN offer “Challenging Islamophobia” workshops across Minnesota and create and circulate community safety guides and “Know Your Rights” pocket guides for Minnesota Muslims.
Some of the funding also will support the Outreach United Open Mosque Campaign, a nationwide effort led by the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) to educate Americans about being Muslim and to counteract recruitment of American Muslims by groups such as the Islamic State. CAIR also plans to add two staff positions to help them manage the increased demands on the agency.
“There are a lot of good things happening in our community,” said Hussein. “I want to acknowledge that. But this is our time to build bridges of understanding and make sure all people are safe and secure wherever they go. The more we know what to do, the more we can challenge Islamophobia in our communities and make them safer. This is a good time to talk about it.”
CAIR-MN is working with schools in the Metro area and parents to ensure that Muslim students feel safe and can learn in school, he said. “We have received reports of students being harassed in schools and we are working to ensure those issues are resolved before they escalate to violence,” he said.
The CAIR-MN website has a link where it is gathering reports of harassment or other anti-Muslim actions. “We want to know about all the incidents-no matter how small-that happen in Minnesota, so we can offer support,” Hussein said.
Hussein said the organization’s work to promote justice and mutual understanding has become even more critical since the Paris terror attacks and shootings in San Bernardino, California, late last year.
Those who wish to support the nonprofit’s work may donate directly to CAIR-MN on its website.
CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.