Daily Herald: Hanover Park forum aims to better know community’s Muslim neighbors

In the days and weeks following the Sikh Temple shooting that killed six worshippers near Milwaukee Aug. 5, the Muslim community — though its members practice a different faith — faced violent and hateful acts as well.

A mosque in Joplin, Mo. was razed in a fire. A man was charged with shooting at a Morton Grove mosque. Anti-Islamic writing was twice found on a grave site in the Muslim section of an Evergreen Park cemetery.

Believing a dialogue should take place to form a deeper understanding of Hanover Park’s own Muslim residents, and hopefully prevent them from becoming future targets, village leaders put together a cultural forum, “Who are my Muslim Neighbors?”

The free event, sponsored by the village’s Cultural Inclusion and Diversity Committee, will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, at the police headquarters community room, 2011 W. Lake St., Hanover Park.

“Things have started hitting a lot closer to home,” Hanover Park Clerk Eira Corral said. “We’re a community that embraces diversity and stands for inclusion, and we don’t want these incidents to start having a backlash.”

Leading the forum will be Gerald Hankerson, outreach coordinator of CAIR Chicago, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He’ll give a presentation that highlights the diversity of the Muslim community, especially relating to social and political viewpoints, and briefly outline some basic tenets and foundations of the faith.

Hankerson also will touch on recent demonstrations over an anti-Islamic film and discuss a variety of viewpoints, such as why someone might choose to wear a jihab, and concepts of jihad and how it’s defined in the faith and by the media.

“I want to illustrate how the Muslim community is quite vibrant and willing to contribute to society,” Hankerson said. “There are more than a billion Muslims who are quite good humans, and who live in our backyard.”

After Hankerson’s presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session. Organizers say the forum will be a structured and safe environment.

“I’m expecting some hot-button questions, and my hope is that people will leave with a better understanding of who their Muslim neighbors are,” Corral said.

Corral, Mayor Rod Craig and committee Chair Sharmin Shahjahan plan to speak briefly.

For more information, contact Corral at (630) 823-5601 or email ecorral@hpil.org.