Chicago Tribune - Non-Muslims vow to add their names to a Muslim registry. Would that help or harm?

By Heidi Stevens

President-elect Donald Trump's selection of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for national security adviser has added to a growing sense of fear that Trump's administration could implement a database to keep tabs on Muslims in America, a campaign promise made by Trump last fall.

In February, Flynn tweeted a link to a YouTube video with the message: "Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: Please forward a link to this video so that people may learn the BASICS of Islam." Coupled with Trump's campaign talk of "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," the selection has many concerned that our nation will abandon some of its core values, including freedom of religion.

George Takei penned a powerful op-ed this week about his family's experience being forced into a Japanese internment camp when he was 5. "'National security' must never again be permitted to justify wholesale denial of constitutional rights and protections," Takei writes. "If it is freedom and our way of life that we fight for, our first obligation is to ensure that our own government adheres to those principles."

But how do we go about ensuring that?

On social media, I frequently see non-Muslims pledging to register themselves on a hypothetical Muslim database in a show of solidarity.

Is that feasible? Is that enough? I called a couple of experts to get their take.

"While the sentiment behind the pledge (to register) is appreciated and welcomed, the unintended effect may be to legitimize the concept of registering Americans of a particular faith," Tabassum Haleem, executive director of the Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago, told me. "If the pushback against these types of nefarious initiatives is part of a larger, united campaign against the erosion of civil liberties of all Americans, it would send a loud and unequivocal message to President-elect Trump that he cannot divide and conquer the American people. That we are, indeed, stronger together."

Corey Saylor is director of the department to monitor and combat Islamophobia at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Saylor says a Muslim database would most likely mean a reinstatement of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, a controversial program launched after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that collected information, fingerprints and photographs of noncitizens entering the United States from certain (mostly majority Muslim) countries and monitored their status and movement once they arrived. It was canceled in 2011.

If a broader Muslim database is implemented for U.S. citizens, however, Saylor said his group welcomes the idea of non-Muslims adding their names.

"People being willing to register themselves if an all-inclusive Muslim registry comes up is greatly appreciated," Saylor said. "When the constitution is being challenged, it's important that everyone be willing to stand up and not just talk about it with their friends, but do something useful. Registering would be one way to do that."

We don't need to wait for a database to push back against anti-Muslim rhetoric, though.

Muslims make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, but Americans of all faiths are welcome to attend open mosque days and educate themselves about the faith and its practitioners.

The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago organizes regional open-mosque days, Haleem said, and churches often hold interfaith events.

"DuPage United, a community organizing group made of churches, mosques and synagogues, started a Solidarity With Muslims campaign earlier this year with standing-room-only events," Haleem said. "The evening of Nov. 17th, nearly 650 people of all faiths gathered at the Islamic Center of Naperville. DuPage United leaders presented the work being done by their member institutions on establishing mental health crises centers, organizing resources for refugees and combating Islamophobia. Police chiefs pledged to continue to protect their citizens, regardless of their race or religion. School districts around the country are affirming policies to protect American Muslim students and other minorities against bullying."

Saylor recommends signing up to receive emails from groups that fight against religious persecution, particularly CAIR, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and Amnesty International.

"These groups will ask you do things that are usually pretty simple and straightforward," Saylor said. "That takes individuals and merges them into a movement. You want to magnify your own impact by joining an organization."

Monthly donations to one or more of those organizations can help them staff lawyers for an organized pushback in the event that Americans' constitutional rights are being threatened, he said.

"We ask people to find a group that you feel is doing good work and make sure you're supporting them," Saylor said. "Not just by reading the emails, but by contributing, by showing up at meetings, by taking action."

Twitter @heidistevens13

DuPage United Fall Assembly - Press Release


41 North Park Boulevard Ÿ Glen Ellyn, IL  60137

NOVEMBER 11, 2016



Reverend Mike Solberg, Senior Pastor, Union Church of Hinsdale 630-590-6695

Reverend Jim Honig, Senior Pastor, Faith Lutheran Church, Glen Ellyn (630) 469-2361

DuPage United holds assembly at Islamic Center of Naperville:

County mental health officials to answer questions, and residents of multiple religions and ethnic backgrounds pledge solidarity with one another at November 17th public meeting

On Thursday, November 17th at 7:00PM, at the Islamic Center of Naperville, 2844 W. Ogden Ave, Naperville, DuPage United will hold a public assembly asking for commitments to action from key County officials, and asking members of the diverse population of DuPage to pledge solidarity with one another and zero tolerance for hatred and xenophobia.

Through organized citizen action, DuPage United has successfully fought for better treatment for individuals with mental illness by compelling the County to establish and fund Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for DuPage police officers. Similar police training in cities and counties nationwide has led to significantly more efficient and effective treatment for those with mental illness while also saving money by diverting individuals from hospital emergency departments or jail into crisis centers.

At the November 17th assembly, DuPage United leaders will discuss progress toward their goal of organizing funding for the construction of crisis diversion centers to serve as cost efficient, life-saving alternatives to incarceration by providing support to families and first responders as they seek effectively respond to daily crisis situations.  DuPage County Health Department Chair, Karen Ayala and Kara Murphy of DuPage County Health Coalition will appear at the rally to answer questions about the project.

Results of the presidential election have heightened uncertainty and concern for many DuPage County residents. In February of this year, members of DuPage United responded to campaign rhetoric denigrating those of Hispanic heritage and members of the Islamic faith as well as other groups by launching the Solidarity Campaign. At the February Solidarity event, more than 800 DuPage County residents pledged to support one another as “We, the People” and not allow themselves to be divided by religion, race or ethnicity.

Since February, DuPage United leaders have expanded this campaign to include a rapid response team to address crisis situations of hatred or discrimination, and outreach and engagement of residents who are refugees. At the November 17th assembly leaders will discuss this work as well as the new challenges the Solidarity Campaign faces.

For more information on the DuPage United Fall Assembly, please visit

DuPage United was founded and exists today to change systems and structures that are unjust. Affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the oldest and largest network of community organizations in the world, DuPage United builds relational power by developing institution-based leadership, building relationships within and between institutions, identifying and researching issues of mutual interest, and taking disciplined, organized action. Leaders become citizens in the fullest sense: participants in democratic decision-making and change agents for a more just society.
DuPage United is an independent, self-funding organization which receives no government money.

Mending Criminal Justice

By Reverend David K. Brawley and Michael Gecan, Industrial Areas Foundation
After many weeks of stunning violence and numbing conventions, three events occurred recently in widely separated parts of the country -- a meeting of community and religious leaders in Baton Rouge with United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the aftermath of the two shootings there (one of an African American by local police, the second of three police officers ambushed by a killer), a gathering of 250 leaders in Kane County Illinois to discuss better training for police who deal with individuals who are mentally ill and an improved mental health system for those struggling with this illness, and an assembly of 600 unionized transit workers in Washington DC who are concerned about conditions, including safety conditions for riders and workers, in and around the nation's Capitol.  
Each event touched on a different aspect of the multi-faceted world of public safety, police preparation and accountability, and criminal justice. What the leaders of Industrial Areas Foundation affiliates in these areas, as well as New York, Cleveland, Baltimore, Durham, Milwaukee, Bridgeport, and Chicago, have realized is that the problems with the nation's criminal justice system are not simply political or programmatic; they are cultural.  They involve a set of overlapping and complex habits, patterns, and beliefs that cannot be solved by one leader, one policy change, or one legislative action. They require a set of interconnected and simultaneous improvements.  
The good news is that, over the past two years, IAF leaders have seen signs of significant improvement in many of these areas.The challenge is that the improvements have emerged slowly and have not yet hit the kind of critical mass that can generate a series of positive chain reactions.  
*In the Chicago metropolitan area, organizations in Kane and DuPage counties have identified the need for Crisis Intervention Training for local police, along with the creation of a robust mental health alternative to arrest and incarceration that includes crisis centers, mental health professional intervention, and longer term housing.

*These leaders have studied the extraordinary work already done by Judge Steven Leifman in Miami-Dade County. Judge Leifman has implemented a mental health alternative to jail or prison that has equipped law enforcement with the training necessary to deal effectively with those struggling with mentally illness.  His approach has provided housing and treatment options that lead to recovery. The prisoner population has decreased so dramatically -- by 35% -- that the county has closed a jail. Police officers are enthusiastic about the approach, and the community benefits in many ways from the proper treatment of those who need treatment, not incarceration.   
*In Cleveland, Greater Cleveland Congregations has documented that minority youth are arrested and imprisoned at far higher rates than other youth. In response, the law enforcement community has reduced the rate of arrest and incarceration for minority individuals and begun to provide them with the same alternatives and supports offered to other youth.  In Baton Rouge, leaders have conducted research that reveals an astonishing gap in police response to citizens who possess drugs -- with African Americans there 700% more likely to be arrested than whites.  In Durham, local community leaders won a precedent-setting reform requiring police to obtain written consent to search cars of motorists without probably cause and removing a police chief who refused to implement reforms that protected the rights of local residents. The two twin curses in minority communities -- over-policing (profiling, unjustified use of force, wholesale arrest and incarceration rates), alternating with under-policing (the lack of consistent and professional attention that protects the safety of the overwhelming majority of innocent residents in minority communities) -- are being systematically exposed and exorcized.
*At the same time, local citizens organizations are initiating the creation of meaningful relationships of mutual respect between community members and local police officers.
*In Baltimore, the BUILD organization has secured job commitments for Johns Hopkins Hospital and University for those returning from jail or prison, thus giving them a path back into the community and economic mainstream.
*In Brooklyn, St. Paul Community Baptist Church has worked closely with the District Attorney and court system to set up a Saturday court within a trusted local congregation.In one day, 700 criminal records for minor offenses were officially expunged, thus giving people a new lease on employment and other opportunities.    
*All across the country, IAF affiliates have recruited 101 police departments and municipalities to agree to push gun manufacturers to integrate gun safety technology into their weapons and to isolate and pressure the very small number of gun sellers that supplies weapons to criminals and killers.  

This set of changes, if implemented persistently and with good judgement, can generate a change in culture -- resulting in better, fairer, and safer outcomes for police and citizens.
In a world of quick fixes, theatrical performers, and media spectacles, this process of change is itself counter cultural. It depends on local institutions that are trusted by skeptical community residents. It relies on police leaders who take the time to build long-term relationships in local settings and who resist the demands for more insularity and defensiveness heard in some law enforcement quarters. It makes new demands on political leaders, who now need to make investments in training and mental health solutions that will save millions in the middle and long run but will cost more up front. And it needs the involvement and staying power of local employers -- hospitals, universities, agencies -- whose jobs are the surest guarantee of family prosperity and community stability.      
The leaders involved are spirited, determined, and hopeful.  They simply need more public and private sector partners willing to deepen and accelerate this culture change in every American community.

Orlando - by Reverend J Michael Solberg

The Canadian vocal group Moxie Fruvous has a song which begins:

We got a call to write a song about the war in the Gulf,

But we shouldn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

So we tried, and gave up, cuz there was no such song,

But the trying was very revealing

As I was preparing to lead our congregation in worshiping God last Sunday morning, I read a headline that said “20 Killed in Orlando Club Shooting.”  By the time the worship service was over, someone told me the number of dead had risen to 50.

(CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article)

Exit, loyalty and voice: A frame to understand the appeal of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton

BY Michael Gecan NEW YORK DAILY NEWS Wednesday, June 15, 2016, 5:01 PM

In a turbulent time, I find a measure of calm and clarity in the words of the late economist A.O. Hirschman, whose short book, “Exit, Voice and Loyalty” was published in 1970. Hirschman was born in Germany into a life of even greater turbulence than we are now experiencing. He escaped the Nazis, fought in the Spanish Civil War, served in the U.S. Army in World War II and afterwards, as a translator at the Nuremberg trials — and then went on to establish himself as a major figure in the field of economics and community development.

As a writer, he respected the complexities and varieties of the enterprises and nations he studied.

Hirschman pondered the options people have as consumers, members of voluntary associations or citizens of a republic — and defined three options available to all.

To me, they correspond to the three political figures shaping this election year.

(CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article)

May 17 Steering Team Meeting Minutes

DuPage United Steering Team Meeting Minutes (revised)
Tuesday, May 17th, 6:30 pm
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

Meeting Chair: Maria Ibarra Lorence, Downers Grove Society of Friends
In attendance:  

Maria Coyne, Union Church
Lucy Tarabour, Union Church
Carol Park, Church of the Holy Nativity
David Rinaldi, Church of the Holy Nativity
Dan Jares, First Church of Lombard
Kevin Lattner,  First Church of Lombard
Mike Solberg, Union Church
John Reimers,
Meredith Muir, Jericho Road Church
Debbie Fulks, Faith Lutheran
Mary Hason, Congregation Etz Chaim
Afaf Qayyun, MECCA
Rachel Brooks, DuPage United
Amy Lawless Ayala, DuPage United
Veronica Cecil, Church of the Holy Nativity
Mohammed Saeed, CPSA
Sally Milow, Mental Health Activist
Nancy Gier, St. Mark’s
Lois Walter, Faith Lutheran

Internal Business
Pending approval by the Executive Committee, Amy Lawless Ayala will be moving into full-time work with Lake County, and Adrienne McCauley (currently working with Fox River Valley Initiative) will begin working along with Rachel Brooks organizing for DuPage United.  These changes are expected to take place around the end of the summer.

Also, DuPage United has hired a part-time administrative staff person.


We the People-Solidarity Campaign
Debbie Fulks reported that since the event on 2/28 that was attended by more than 800, there has been a clergy breakfast and an evaluation meeting to discuss next steps.  She emphasized that we need to move from “standing together” to “acting together.”

A few of the ideas have not panned out due to lack of people willing to lead, specifically the rapid response team.

Open mosque days have been well attended.

Debbie and others also shared instances of relationships that are developing as a result of the campaign; sometimes the small relationships are the most important to moving the goal of the campaign forward.

Emails with names of those who filled out commitment cards at the 2/28 event have been sent to turnout chairs at each institution.  Everyone is urged to follow up with these people with one-on-ones.  Please contact Debbie if your institution has not received this information.  A second email will be sent within the next few days.

Coming up:

  • 5/25/16, We the People-Know Your Muslim Neighbor Planning Meeting, 2 -3:30 pm (no location given)
  • 7/15/16 Metro IAF Muslim leaders meeting in Chicago to discuss regional and/or national strategies.

Mike Solberg encourages the team to focus on turning the “We the People” campaign into something actionable.


Regional and Local Mental Health Analysis

Mike Solberg gave an overview of the status of this work:

He emphasized the far-reaching effects of trauma which plants the seeds of mental illness.  Trauma takes on many forms including poverty, racial discrimination, and unstable housing situations.  
As society continues to criminalize mental illness, and the state of Illinois continues its years-long trend of decreasing support for mental health services, the incidence of mental illness continues to grow.

CIT Update:

  • Legislation passed last year has made it possible for organizations other than the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board (ILETSB) to develop CIT curriculum, have it approved and certified by the Standards Board, and offer it for no cost to police officers anywhere in the state.
  • The DuPage County Sheriff’s office has developed such a curriculum and is waiting for approval from the Standards Board.  Funding for the training is coming from the DuPage County Health Department due to the leadership of Karen Ayala, Executive Director of the Department.


What we need to do:

  • DU Member institutions need to contact their local chiefs of police to make sure they’re aware of the Sheriff’s efforts.
  • Look at CIT as more than training for police officers—the “team” involves police, mental health professionals, supportive housing advocates and more.
  • Continue to research and work for establishment of a triage center in east DuPage
  • Research and work toward establishment of supportive housing for those being treated for mental illness:  “Housing is treatment.”


Coming up:

Mental Health and Housing Team Meeting Monday, May 23rd, 6:30pm, Location TBD; RSVP to Rachel:

Self-Interest and Building Power

Amy Lawless Ayala discussed how necessary it is to understand the relationship between power and self-interest in order to understand and to achieve power.

Self-interest is the healthy middle ground between selfishness—disregard for anyone other than oneself, and selflessness—disregard for one’s own needs, which renders one unable to help anyone at all.

In order to have power over a person, group or organization, you must understand what the self-interest of the person, group or organization is, and be able to affect that.  She mentioned the example of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner who has indicated his “self-interest” in reducing Illinois’s prison population.  Our relationship with Rauner appointee, Public Safety Director Roger Heaton gives us an opportunity to leverage some power with Rauner as we demonstrate how our efforts in the mental health arena intersect with his self-interest regarding reduction of prison population.


Upcoming calendar items:

  • United Power for Action & Justice Delegates Assembly, Sunday, May 22nd, 7 – 8:30 pm at St. Phillips’ Lutheran, 1609 Pfingsten Road, Glenview
  • Housing and Mental Health Meeting, Monday, May 23rd, 6:30 pm. Location TBD, RSVP to
  • 3-hour Introduction to Organizing training, June 25th, 9 am – noon, Congregational Church of Batavia, 21 S. Batavia Avenue, Batavia
  • IAF National Leadership Training, July 12-19, Roosevelt University, Chicago

We the People - Know your Muslim Neighbors

Click the video above to watch highlights from Dupage United's first Solidarity Event.

On Sunday, February 28th, over 850 voices, from 80 organizations, engaged in meaningful conversation at the ‘We the People - Know your Muslim Neighbor’ event, a kick-off to the year long DuPage United Solidarity Campaign.

Successful beyond expectations, the afternoon had speakers from various backgrounds, including former Wheaton College professor Dr. Larycia Hawkins, IIT Muslim Student Association President Mr. Mohsin Ishaq, and from Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Rev. James Honig.

“Muslims. Christians, Jews, the Non religious, can stand together today and fight back hate, bigotry, and discrimination,” reiterated Syrian immigrant and banker Hani Atassi, of Mecca Center, Willowbrook. “Afterall, what is more meaningful to our lives is NOT religious dominance, racial superiority or wealth accumulation. It is love and compassion for your fellow human beings.”

See photos from the event:

For more coverage of the event read the article featured in the Daily Herald:

The DuPage United Solidarity Campaign will continue its mission of building trust and understanding. This includes a series of Open Mosque Days. Please visit our website to learn more at

Relational Power and Relational Meetings

On Tuesday February 16th, DuPage United had a Steering Team Meeting co-chaired by Naazish YarKhan from ICNA Relief and Debbie Fulks from Faith Lutheran. The agenda included updates on the upcoming Solidarity Action event, improving regional Mental Health assistance, and a special focus on Relational Power and Relational Meetings.

Relational Power is the primary currency in DuPage United and our institutions along with many large organizations.  People work together, help each other out, team-up for success, forgive mistakes, and generally stick together in the organization.  We are social creatures and relationships matter.  Through Relational Meetings, people become inter-related and can build the power necessary to make a positive change in the community.

Fox River Valley Initiative Assembly on Housing and Mental Health

On October 20th the Fox River Valley Initiative hosted an assembly that focused on housing and mental health. FRVI is an expansion effort of DuPage United and the newest IAF organizations in Illinois. 200 people from 15 member institution attended. During the meeting the county Sheriff  committed to ongoing Crisis Intervention Team(CIT)  training. In November the Sheriff hosted 30 officers from throughout the county for CIT training. He is committed to do 2 more sessions in 2016. The organization is currently meeting with county board members to pressure the county to fund a county jail re-entry program for people with mental illness. The housing team is focused on organizing their base and site identification.