Teenage Muslims knelt for afternoon prayer on the floor of the Statehouse after a rally on Muslim Action Day, March 9. Nearly 1,200 Muslim faithful converged on the state capital to push for education reform, civil rights and the environment.
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, United African Organization, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and Muslim Bar Association of Chicago gathered for the event. The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton joined with Muslims from all walks of life including those from Bosnia, Nigeria and Libya. Muslim women and youth bustled about, many wearing colorful “hijabs,” a headscarf that Muslim women wear around their face and shoulders.
“We are currently witnessing a time in our country’s history where the ugly face of bigotry is sweeping across the nation,” said Janaan Hasham, an attorney, and spokesperson for Illinois Muslim Action Day. “The Muslim community often hears its counterparts say, where is the Muslim voice? Right now, for the third consecutive year, Illinois Muslims say, we are in Springfield, our state’s capital.”
Muslim leaders, including youth, called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would teach Arabic and other key global languages in Chicago schools, fund services for refugees, pass the Illinois Dream Act and make the ninth lunar month – which constitutes Ramadan – officially a green month for the state of Illinois. The ninth lunar month begins Aug. 1 this year.
Seven schools from Chicago and area suburbs and more than 20 buses made the trip. Many more traveled by train to conserve energy, including Lena Sarhan, 15, and her mother, Eman Sarhan.
Lena Sarhan, who attends Universal School in Bridgeview, spoke about the “green Ramadan” initiative in a press conference before the rally. Sarhan came to the capital with the goal of persuading legislators to back Senate Resolution 97, sponsored by Sen. Mattie Hunter, a Chicago Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, a Lemont Republican. The resolution would make the ninth lunar month environmentally-friendly across the state.
As part of the “green Ramadan” initiative, mosques, or houses of Muslim prayer, must pledge to recycle as a Muslim community, form an environmental committee and include the environment in teachings during the month of Ramadan.
During the time of the fast is when Driss El Akrich says people are most giving of their time and resources at the Islamic Society of Greater Springfield as well. El Akrich, a spokesperson for The Islamic Society of Greater Springfield, along with 10 members of the Springfield mosque, hosted Muslim Action Day for the third year. The Islamic Society of Greater Springfield has not signed up as a member of “green Ramadan,” because of the mosque’s small size, roughly 250 families. But El Akrich says that the Islamic Society of Greater Springfield took action during the month of Ramadan in 2010, and changed the light bulbs to fluorescent bulbs in every room, from the kitchen to the library within the mosque. The fluorescent bulbs are a small but definitive move toward energy efficiency. He acknowledges more needs to be done, including a boost in recycling at the house of worship. But the idea of “going green” is gaining acceptance within the Springfield Muslim community through small steps like planting trees and participating in food drives.