Trib Local: Avery Connley Students Star in Muslim-Jewish Festival

Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, which begins on September 1, is on the horizon and Cafe Finjan, with its message of brotherhood, has arrived well in time. These days when one hears more of the animosity or supposed animosity between Muslims and Jews, programs such as this are a breath of fresh air. It promises to be a night of comedy, music, song, poetry, drumming, storytelling and art. Three Muslim children, Camraan Khan, 10, Samia A. Qadir, 8 and her brother Imaad A.Qadir, 10, are amongst the youngest participants at “Cafe Finjan” – a series of Jewish-Muslim arts exchanges! Samia and Imaad attend Avery Coonley in Downers Grove, while Camraan is at Mill Street School in Naperville.

The event is for scheduled for Thursday August 21, 2008. Doors Open at 6:30 pm Program 7:00- 9:30pm at Mercury Café, 1505 W Chicago Ave (1 block east of Ashland). While there is no price, the suggested donation is $5-$10. RSVP at

Café Finjan was begun in 2004 by the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs as part of its Jewish-Muslim Community-Building Initiative. The series establishes points of contact, and nurtures a greater understanding between Jews and Muslims of Chicago while creating spaces for Chicagoland Jews, Muslims, and others of diverse backgrounds to come together and give voice to their identity and experience as part of a larger community.

All three of these child-poets are Naperville residents and participated this summer at the Writers Studio ( ) where they learned the craft of writing and then had an opportunity to either get their work published, on the air, or a chance such as this where they read in front of a crowd. The audience at Cafe Finjan is expected to be over 200 people strong. These students wrote their poems for Cafe Finjan at one of the Writers Studio workshops.

“The more you get students involved in activities where they are writing for a real audience and with a real purpose, the more they will see writing as an activity that is necessary, purposeful, and enjoyable,” says Sandhya Nankani, former Supervising Editor, Scholastic Education. “A weekly structure that involves fun writing activities might help students .. understand and enjoy the social benefits of writing such as sharing stories and learning from others. ”

Writers Studio ( is all about writing for a real audience. It builds confidence in ones writing. The workshops equip students to think, write and express themselves fluently while making the right impression, says founder Ms.Naazish YarKhan. “Students use an interactive, multi-sensory approach that makes writing fun and the craft of writing easily learned. Students also gain a sense of civic responsibility by writing letters to the editor, participating in letter writing campaigns for Amnesty International and at events such s Cafe Finjan.”

“I feel happy inside because I know that my poem might make a difference and might change how people think about Muslims. They’ll figure it out that not all Muslims are terrorists after this poem,” says Samia Abdul Qadir, 8, who will be reciting her poem about the Muslim Holiday Eid, at the event. “The people I read to will know about Islam and will know about our holidays. Then they will know that we are all basically the same.”

The event is sponsored by Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Inner-city Muslim Action Network, haZula Jewish Meetup, DePaul United Muslims Moving Ahead, Jewish Caucus PACT, Interfaith Youth Core, American Muslims for Activism & Learning, Chicago Muslim Bar Association, and Student Pluralism Interfaith Network.

“Finjan,” a word in both Arabic and Hebrew, is a metal pot for brewing coffee in the traditional Middle Eastern style, both in the home and around the campfire, with friends gathered around for warmth. As an attendee myself, I just can’t wait ! Camra

an Khan’s Poem

I am a Muslim American, By Camraan K., 10yrs old

I am happy to be a Muslim American.
I ask God to make it easy for me to make good choices.
I do this five times a day to keep myself on the right track. I treat my neighbors and friends respectfully.
I fast in the month of Ramadan it reminds me to be grateful and to help.
I go for Friday or Jumah prayers at the Mosque, when everyone prays together.
I give charity for the poor and help out when I can.
I tell my friends about Eid celebration at school.
I am very much like everyone else.
I like to see people smile and be happy with each other.
I share the same dreams and worries as my friends.
I like to laugh at jokes, and play tricks on my brothers.
I like macaroni and cheese, and pizza. I just won’t drink alcohol or eat pork.
I like being this way.
I help my team in football, baseball, and basketball. The world is our team, not a free-for-all.
If we take turns and share, if we can play fair, we can all win again and again.
I am happy to be a Muslim American.

Copyright © 2008