Group launches task force to address systemic racism

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago has launched an Anti-Racism Task Force to educate and raise awareness about systemic racism, fight for reform through legislation, and take action through community projects.

"The pandemic and the senseless killing of Black men and women has highlighted the racial and economic injustices in our nation and this challenge is a way for the Muslims of Illinois to come together and empower our communities to address the issues at hand," said council board member Sabina Qadir of Naperville.

The task force's goals include sensitivity training at the council's member mosques, a communitywide summer service challenge, a yearlong public relations campaign, grants for diversity and inclusion in youth programs, and a Muslim Day of Action.

The council is an umbrella group for more than 60 member organizations, including mosques, Islamic schools and community groups serving more than 400,000 Muslim Americans in the greater Chicago region. Collectively, they represent Muslims of varying ethnicities, races and cultures.

Promoting sensitivity

Training sessions are aimed at helping community members examine policies that foster racism, develop tangible solutions to address inequities, and become anti-racist advocates, CIOGC Executive Director Abdullah Mitchell said.

"Police reform (is) clearly one of the hot topics right now," Mitchell said. "How do we change practices around police engagement with communities of color? One of the biggest challenges is to keep at the forefront ... the importance of this work, to raise their sensitivity of the injustices that African American and other communities of color are actually experiencing. The concern is, will people's attention to this matter wane over time, because it is going to take time to bring about the necessary change."

Another area of focus is improving access to health care for minorities.

The council launched a prototype for a community nursing program at Islamic Foundation North in Libertyville in partnership with Advocate Health. Its goal is educating people about making better health choices and providing nutrition counseling for communities of color.

Mitchell hopes the program can be duplicated in other communities. The task force also will work with food pantries serving communities of color to promote better nutrition, he added.

Diversity ordinance

Hanover Park village leaders are considering a new diversity, equity and inclusion ordinance recommending allocation of funding and resources for cultural competency training, community surveys, embedding equity metrics into village strategic plans and annually reviewing progress.

The ordinance also outlines parameters for when Hanover Park Police Department can interact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Hanover Park's population is comprised of 34% immigrants and 67% people of color.

In 2019, community members asked the village board for clarity around police interactions with ICE. The board directed the Cultural Inclusion & Diversity Committee to draft a resolution or ordinance addressing those concerns.

Committee members reviewed recent state laws aiding immigrants and welcoming ordinances in other municipalities, and consulted with organizations, including the National League of Cities Race, Equity, and Leadership Council, village Trustee Sharmin Shahjahan said.

Its metrics to define and measure safety and a sense of belonging will serve "as a long-term road map for Hanover Park to go beyond platitudes to live up to its tagline as America's Global Village," she added.

The village board will discuss the ordinance at its February meeting. View the draft ordinance at

Interfaith comedy

The Children of Abraham Coalition of the Northwest suburbs will host a virtual interfaith comedy night at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30.

It will feature stand-up comedians Rabbi Bob Alper, of Vermont, the Rev. Susan Sparks, senior pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in New York, and Gibran Saleem, of New York, an actor/comedian in several TV series, movies and shorts.

Sign up for a link at

Minority business help

More minority-owned small businesses can access federal COVID-19 emergency programs with a $3.4 million injection of funds.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is expanding its community navigator outreach programs and technical assistance services provided through the State's Small Business Development Centers. It is aimed at helping more businesses access financial help through the renewed Paycheck Protection Program and other federal programs launching in the coming weeks.

This latest funding will be disbursed to small businesses with the greatest needs, prioritizing minority-owned businesses, businesses in economically-disadvantaged communities, and those that haven't yet received financial assistance.

For information on how to apply, visit the DCEO webpage, or call the hotline at (800) 252-2923.

Faith during pandemic

Al Aqsa Community Center of Plainfield and GainPeace will host a virtual open house from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 31, to discuss how faith communities adapted religious practices and services to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

Speakers include Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, director of GainPeace, Shaykh Zaid Khan, Al Aqsa Community Center religious director, Imam Charles Muhammad, board member of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, and representatives of other faith-based organizations.

Listen to the discussion on Facebook,, or YouTube,

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