Author: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
Publisher: Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) 1996
Pages: 105 Binding: Paperback
Description from the publisher:
CAIR uses a variety of traditional advocacy methods.
These methods include organizing demonstrations, filing complaints with the appropriate authorities, extensive use of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, leafleting, issuing press releases, media appearances, letter writing, running public awareness campaigns, producing public service announcements, launching educational campaigns designed to improve understanding about Islam, hosting panel discussions and town hall meetings, training the Muslim community in advocacy tactics, non-partisan voter registration drives, direct meetings with elected officials, and calls for Muslims to vote on election day.
From its beginning, CAIR focused its efforts on training American Muslims to be effective in their dealings with the media. This focus resulted in media training events across the nation in which Muslims learned how to write and issue press releases, how to formulate talking points and even what types of clothes to wear when going on television (for instance, avoiding clothes with stripes or wearing sunglasses). CAIR’s “Media Relations Handbook for Muslim Activists” was published in 1996. It is an early example of CAIR’s strong belief in providing community members tools with which to empower themselves. CAIR’s 2008 “Civic Participation Handbook” similarly contains practical steps for community members who wish to work on government affairs issues.
In 2000, CAIR announced the opening of its Leadership Training Center, which was designed to offer instruction “in faith-based political lobbying, grass-roots activism, public relations, community leadership, and organizational management, to Muslim activists, students and leaders.”
To use one year as an example, 24 interns worked in CAIR’s national office in 2008. CAIR interns from past years have gone on to serve on the staff of the White House, U.S. Congress, State Department, and other government agencies. During the summer of 2008, interns observed interviews at CNN and FOX, attended a national progressive youth conference, met with their congressional representatives to discuss racial profiling, attended Friday prayers at the U.S. Capitol building, and much more.
In 2008, CAIR chapters in South Carolina, California, New Jersey, Washington and Illinois hosted Muslim Youth Leadership Programs (MYLP) to help train high school and college students in effective civil rights, media relations and government affairs strategies. CAIR plans to continue expanding the MYLP.
In 2009, CAIR conducted three primary areas of training for the Muslim community:
Know Your Rights: This workshop familiarizes Muslims with their constitutional rights and covers preventive measures against possible hate crimes and discrimination. It addresses topics such as your rights as a student, an employee, or an airline passenger and what people should know if the FBI contacts them. The program also focuses on building intercommunity bridges. It deals with developing positive relationships with law enforcement agencies, building coalitions with interfaith and minority groups and reporting suspicious activities in the community.
Civic Participation: This roll-up-your–sleeves-and-get-involved training focuses on effective government relations tactics. It includes pragmatic steps for non-partisan election participation and how to set up meetings with elected officials and make best use of such meetings.
Media Relations: Another hands-on training in which CAIR instructs activists in drafting media alerts, formulating talking points and participating in interviews.
CAIR’s civil rights coordinators--the caseworkers who intake, investigate, mediate and resolve complaints from the community--make extensive use of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Act prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion or national origin in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment.
Most cases are resolved simply by contacting the employer and reminding them of Title VII. When this approach fails, complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) frequently resolve the issue.
Ignorance is a major factor in many of these cases. Therefore, education is a key in preventing their occurrence. CAIR’s guides to Islamic religious practices are an early example of prevention through education. (The first guide to Islamic religious practices was produced by CAIR in 1997 and co-sponsored by DePaul University’s Islam in America Conference.)
Educational efforts have included asking mosques to host open houses, giving away free material about Islam and frequent presentations to interested groups, ad campaigns such as “I am an American Muslim,” and the placement of books about Islam in public libraries.
Since 1995, CAIR’s annual report, called “The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in America,” has tracked the number of bias complaints reported to the organization. CAIR has commissioned surveys of American attitudes regarding Muslims, surveys of Muslim concerns and attitudes and election-day exit polls.
CAIR’s advocacy toolbox includes its action alert network. Action alerts will typically inform recipients of an issue and ask them to contact the source of the concern, often a corporation or a public official. These alerts are known to generate an overwhelming volume of phone calls, faxes and e-mails.