The CAIR-Chicago office welcomed a Bulgarian delegation on Wednesday, October 11th, 2011, whose mission was to gain knowledge on how the Bulgarian and American Muslim communities can benefit from international collaboration and cooperation.
The delegation’s goals were to learn about the environment of religious tolerance in the U.S. and how religious groups like CAIR-Chicago function in a democratic society with a separation of church and state. They also strove to explore ethnic identity and the best practices for inter-ethnic dialogue, exchange ideas with counterparts at places of worship, including Islamic centers, churches, and synagogues, and examine the role of schools and cultural centers in American society.
The delegates were given a tour of the office by Gerald Hankerson, Outreach Coordinator, and introduced to staff, interns and law clerks. Members of the delegation showed interest in the interns’ work as interns discussed how they monitor the media for bias against religious minorities.
The staff at CAIR-Chicago held a meeting with the delegation, in which they discussed how Muslims can counteract Islamophobia by partnering with the local media. Hankerson emphasized the importance of civic engagement between Muslim and non-Muslim organization in Chicago. He also stressed the history of Muslims as active, contributing members of American society.
“Muslims have been in America since its inception, yet they are still a relatively “new” community in terms of acceptance in American society,” Hankerson explained.
The delegates and staff agreed that collaboration between the two countries’ cultural and religious organizations can help foster a deeper understanding and acceptance of Islam and Muslims in the world.
The delegates included Mr. Vedat Sabri Ahmed, Deputy Chief Mufti of Bulgaria, Mr. Hyusein Hasan Hafazov, Secretary General, Chief Mufti’s Office, Mr. Beyhan Mustafov Mehmedov, Regional Mufti of Kardjali, Mr. Isa Mehmed Mersim, Operational Accountant, Neterra ltd, and Mr. Ventsislav Vekilov Hadzhiev, Student at University for National and World Economy.