SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)-Long years of hard work to provide a correct image of Islam to the American community have been threatened after a key Chicago-based Muslim group complained of facing the backlash of a raging Middle East war.
“People call and they yell at us,” Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, the Director of the non-profit Gain Peace, told NBC Chicago on Tuesday, September 23.
“They tell us to go back home.”
Gain Peace is a national organization supported by the Islamic Circle of North America.
The group has launched several educational campaigns to dispel misperceptions about Islam and Muslims, using billboards, newspapers, television, and radio ads.
The ads usually include a phone number for those interested in getting more information about Islam as well as a free copy of the Noble Qur’an.
Prompted by the increasing Islamophopia after 9/11, the group’s campaigns aim to defy misconceptions about Islam in a state that has one of the largest Muslim populations in US.
However, over the past few weeks, years-long work seemed to be shattering after the rise of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), accompanied by increase of anti-Muslim rhetoric around the world.
“When there is any crisis in the Middle East, any tensions, then the rate increases about 10 to 15 percent,” said Ahmed.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Another US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
The rise of ISIL in Syria and Iraq has seized on American’s fears that the religion is hostile.
“The Muslim community is definitely bracing itself,” said Angie Emara, the founder My Jihad.
Emara launched the public education campaign MyJihad in 2012, to take back Islam from Muslim and anti-Muslim extremists.
The group’s work has been focused on spreading the proper meaning of Jihad, as believed and practiced by the majority of Muslims.
“Everything that we have put out there and our lives is getting undone yet again because a group of people are trying to claim they are Muslim and acting in the name of religion,” she said.
Muslims worldwide have expressed opposition to ISIL’s atrocities, culminated by the beheading of three Westerners.
“They clearly don’t represent Islam,” said Loyola freshman and activist Mahdi Sahloul.
“As a moderate American Muslim and as most moderate American Muslims, I condemn ISIS. I feel very angered that they claim to represent the religion that I just so happen to follow,” he added, using another acronym for the group.
Sahloul has volunteered with the Syrian American Medical Society the last two years at refugee camps in both Turkey and Jordan.
“Both of my parents were born and raised in Syria so obviously the crisis going on in Syria has affected me personally,” said Sahloul.
“I feel like the image of the average Muslim male or female has changed since 911.
“But now things are coming back, those stereotypes, those hateful words are coming back because of the situation in the Middle East with ISIS is escalating.”