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“Stand with Muslims,” a hastily put together but well-organized rally, drew a crowd of about 400 people to Fountain Square on Dec. 15. Eighteen organizations – including Christian, Jewish, non-denominational, peace and justice and civic groups – signed on as co-sponsors.
Lesley Williams, who organized the event, said she came up with the idea for the rally because of the recent and strident Islamophobia in the U.S. and around the world.
“This is a tremendously moving moment,” Ms. Williams said as the rally began. “I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder to be an Evanstonian. … I think what we’re doing is saying, ‘It is time for us to stand up. … We are Americans. We stand … against restricting or threatening Americans because of their religious beliefs’”
Tahera Ahmad, a chaplain at Northwestern, said she is “one of the few female chaplains in the country allowed to read the Quran” and recited a blessing from the holy book.
“We do not turn aside from justice,” she added. She thanked the Jewish and Christian communities and said, “Your presence here means a lot. I will continue to be a proud American, and we will continue to stand for each other.”
Renner Carlson of the Council on American-Islamic Relations noted that although Chicago has one large building developed by Donald Trump, whose anti-Muslim sentiment has been widely publicized, the city also has the John Hancock building and Willis Tower, both built by a Muslim, Fazlur Khan. “Cultural diversity creates a strong community,” he said.
“This is a window of opportunity for people to be open and learn, said Gabriel Machabanski, fair housing tester at Open Communities. “Don’t pretend to speak for Muslims,” he urged the crowd. Instead, he said, they should listen.
Echoing Ms. Williams’s sentiment about Evanston, Michael Nabors of Second Baptist Church compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler and King Leopold of Belgium and said a scourge of entitlement is wracking the country. “We stand with our Muslim brothers, not because justice demands it,” Dr. Nabors said, “but because our faith demands it.”
Ms. Williams, who is Head of Adult Services at Evanston Public Library, invited everyone to recite the pledge, Stand With Muslims, which in part recounts some moves against the Muslim community and affirms this county’s championing of freedom of religion.