UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO SCHOLAR PROMOTES MUSLIM INTEGRATION
Most of metropolitan Chicago’s 400,000 Muslims are isolated from the communities in which they live — especially in the suburbs — and not necessarily by choice, says Louise Cainkar, a fellow of the Great Cities Institute of the University of Illinois at Chicago and an internationally recognized expert on Muslims and Arabs in the West.
Through a study supported by a $50,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust, Cainkar will study relationships between Muslims and others in their suburbs. She will recommend strategies by which local Muslim organizations can speed the process of civic integration.
Her study will focus on three Chicago suburbs where residents have opposed mosques: Bridgeview, where mobs surrounded a mosque for three days after 9/11; and Morton Grove and Orland Park, where residents organized to stop the construction of mosques.
“Many Americans have held Muslims collectively responsible for the 9/11 attacks because of negative media portrayals and events in the Middle East,” Cainkar said. “As an isolated group, Muslims were easily targeted, and there were few social repercussions for targeting them.”
Cainkar said that historically, American immigrant groups adapt to the dominant culture as that culture changes to accommodate them in a process that typically takes 20 to 30 years.
“One major lesson of history is that for Muslims to be welcome as members of American society, American society itself must change, and Muslims must do much of the work to cause that change,” Cainkar said.
“The issues Muslims face are in some ways more difficult than for previous religious minorities because social conflicts involving Muslims have both domestic and global components. Some American politicians have relied on negative images of Muslims to gain support for their foreign policies. This frustrates Muslim Americans’ efforts to be civically engaged in American society,” she said. (MORE)
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