— Muslim Alliance of Indiana

I AM CHANGE- Leadership and Intelligent Advocacy Workshop

On Saturday, May 17, 2014, the Muslim Alliance of Indiana (MAI) hosted the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) for the “I Am Change” workshop. The event took place from 10 am to 2 pm at IUPUI’s Campus Center. Leaders and members of the Muslim community, in and around Indianapolis, attended the event.

The “I Am Change” workshop travels throughout the United States in an effort to educate and give Muslim-American communities the tools and ideas necessary to make changes to impact their communities. “I Am Change” focuses on several objectives during its workshops. These objectives include promoting civic engagement within Muslim communities, creating a better understanding of the different levels of government and how to become involved at each level, establishing skills necessary to talk about issues pertinent to Muslims with government officials and the media, and showing that change can be done by providing examples of Muslim-Americans who have made differences in their communities.

Haris Tarin, the Director of the Washington DC office of MPAC, presented the workshop on Saturday. Mr. Tarin touched on all of the “I Am Change” objectives. Mr. Tarin, throughout his presentation, produced examples from the Quran and Hadiths to show the importance of civic engagement. His theme throughout the civic engagement segment was, “If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu,” which is something Congressman Keith Ellison stated at a summit hosted by MPAC.

Mr. Tarin then discussed the various divisions within government. He explained how many leaders in federal, state, and local government have never met Muslims in their lifetime and explained that if those individuals never meet Muslims, then the policies they adopt will unlikely be favorable for Muslims and the needs and issues of Muslim-Americans will go unaddressed.

Mr. Tarin also explained that creating relationships with those individuals within government, no matter how small the government official’s position may seem, will enable those individuals to see actual Muslim-Americans and form opinions regarding Muslims based on that, as opposed to how the media presents Muslims.

With regard to this topic, Mr. Tarin broke the audience into different groups and asked the audience to devise a plan to create a hypothetical coalition and affect change in the community. Things needed to be done included recruiting the right individuals, brainstorming the necessary resources, and maintaining the vitality of the coalition. This showed the importance of creating relationships with individuals from all branches of government.

The final part of the workshop was to demonstrate how to effectively discuss the issues that are important for the Muslim-American community specifically. The important part of this was to ensure that when trying to make sure someone cares about the topic, as Muslims, we have to relate it to issues that those in government can relate to. Some of the things that everyone agrees on are values, so if the specific issues can be framed in a broad, general value that is shared by all Americans, then this will make it more likely that the government official will be compassionate about the issue. Mr. Harin then requested the audience, in their groups, to frame specific Muslim-American issues in terms of values shared by all Americans and present how each group would discuss those issues with government officials to ensure the officials would care and be able to relate to the issue.