On February 17, CAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator Amina Sharif presented to a DePaul University class entitled “Multiculturalism and Democracy: Middle East Communities in the United States,” taught by Dr. Mazan Istanbouli. The course covers the topics of political socialization and identity.
Sharif’s presentation aimed to give students a broad understanding of the Muslim-American community in terms of its ethnic diversity, socioeconomic levels and political beliefs. For example, she presented demographic research on the Muslim-American community showing, contrary to popular belief, Middle-Easterners only make up 15-20% the total population. When discussing the socioeconomic status of American Muslims, Sharif pointed out how Muslims are one of the most affluent groups in the nation, as well as one of the most highly educated. Sharif surprised many students when she shared the fact that the Muslim women in the U.S have a higher employment rate and education level than the national average for women in America. In fact, Muslim-American women are more educated than Muslim men in the U.S.
Sharif also touched briefly on the rich history of Muslims in America going as far back as European exploration and the slave trade, highlighting how Muslims made up 10-30% of the total slave population.
The students engaged Sharif in a discussion on the struggles Muslim-Americans face today in regards to discrimination, equality, and the negative portrayals of Muslims in the media. Sharif described the work CAIR-Chicago does to fight discrimination and promote religious tolerance and she talked about how her department, Communications, monitors the media to correct bias and inaccurate information. This is one way CAIR-Chicago fosters a better understanding of Islam.
The presentation was held at DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus to a class of about 30 students. Sharif has spoken to Professor Istanbouli’s classes in the past as well.