Why Us? Why Now?
The Muslim American community nationally is still largely composed of immigrants who have yet to be fully civically integrated into the communities in which they reside. This process is hampered by a prevailing misunderstanding of Islam and Muslims in American public and private spheres. The suspicion and mistrust of Muslims at large that resulted from the 9/11 terrorist attacks have put the Muslim American community at a further disadvantage socially, economically, and – most notably for the purpose of this organization – politically.
The Muslim American political landscape is dotted with organizations and entities that seek to act on behalf of common Muslim community needs, concerns, and desires. These efforts range from Mosque leaders meeting with local elected officials to hosting a fundraiser for a political candidate to advocating for a specific cause or law. Yet to this day, these efforts have been largely sporadic and lack a consistent established presence that leads to actual political clout. Efforts aimed at integrating Muslim Americans into the political spheres at local, statewide, and national levels of government, as successfully achieved by other immigrant communities, are in place, yet the Muslim American population continues to be marginalized.
This marginalization has had the effect of completely disengaging some of the most vulnerable segments of the population: Muslim American youth. Increased levels of disenfranchisement have the potential to lead young Muslim Americans towards paths that would be harmful not only for their own communities but also for society at large. These youth need to believe that opportunities exist to have their voices heard in this country that is just as much their own as it has been for generations of Americans since the establishment of this great country. They need role models in government and the public sphere to show them that political aspirations are possible and that change on behalf of a once marginalized community is not beyond the realm of possibility.
A 2007 study sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs – with the participation of numerous Muslim, immigrant, and government agencies – found that civic and political participation within the Muslim American community is essential to the full realization of rights by the Muslim American population within the United States. Furthermore, the study emphasized that the successful civic and political integration of these communities will result in a more secure and inclusive American society. In fact, among the top three recommendations of this diverse task force was to increase the civic participation of the Muslim American population beyond its current scope. This principle mirrors the fundamental objective of Project M and its three-pronged mission.
The Chicagoland Muslim American community is ready for the significant political and governmental changes that will ensue under the successful operation of Project M. There is political talent in the Muslim American community that needs only direction and resources in order to gain substantive footing. The long and extensive history of mobilization by several local Muslim-membered organizations has adequately laid the foundation for more strategic and consistent organizing efforts in the future. And finally, the political climate is ripe for an organization that will pave the way for concentrated advocacy efforts in the name of the Muslim American community.
The Muslim American community has been ready and waiting for the services, resources, and advocacy Project M will provide. Now is the time to make these once far-fetched aspirations a solid reality.