On February 17, CAIR-Chicago Communications Coordinator Amina Sharif presented to a DePaul University class about Middle Eastern communities in the U.S. 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.
She presented demographic research on the Muslim-American community to dispel common misconceptions about Muslim-Americans. Many students were taken back when they learned that Middle-Easterners only make up 15-20% the total population.
When discussing the socioeconomic status of American Muslims, Sharif pointed out that Muslims are one of the most affluent groups in the nation, as well as one of the most highly educated. Sharif also surprised many students when she shared the fact that Muslim women in the U.S have a higher employment rate and education level than the national average for women in general in America. In fact, Muslim-American women are more educated than Muslim men in the U.S.
Sharif also covered the rich history of Muslims in America, tracing their origins back to European exploration and the slave trade, highlighting how Muslims made up 10-30% of the total slave population.
After her presentation, DePaul students took turns talking and engaged Sharif in a discussion on the struggles Muslim-Americans face today regarding discrimination, equality, and the negative portrayals of Muslims in the media.
Sharif described the work CAIR-Chicago does to fight these obstacles and promote religious tolerance. She talked about how her department, Communications, monitors the media to correct bias and inaccurate information, and contacts news outlets with stories to cover that highlight positive aspects of Muslim-Americans in the community. These are some 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 and says she looks forward to doing so again in the future.