February 11, 2023 – ICNA Council of Social Justice honored the first-time elected state representatives from Muslim community – Abdelnaseer Rashid and Nabeela Syed – in a Community Banquet at Villa Park Illinois. Rashid is the first Palestinian-American to serve in the Illinois General Assembly. At 23, Nabeela is also among the youngest woman ever elected in Illinois. And the two legislators are the first Muslim American lawmakers ever elected to the Illinois State Legislature in the United States.
The program started with recitation of holy Qur’an verses highlighting the importance of Justice in Islamic vision of life. Arif Khan, president ICNA Chicago chapter introduced the mission and activities of Council of Social Justice followed by the honoring ceremony of the guests.
Representative Nabeela Syed addressed the audience
In his thanking note, Rashid quoted the popular hadith “Allah is in the aide of His servant to the extent that the servant is in aide to his fellow brothers” and emphasizes the role of humanitarian values he wants to carry being a representative of Muslim community in the politics. He promised to serve as a bridge between community needs and state offerings, so that the state agencies and community leaders and organizations can work together and make the best use of all the resources that state has to offer.
Appreciating the fact that ICNA started the collective effort of serving community in the very early stage when Muslims just started migrating to America, Nabeela too emphasized the humanitarian values ingrained in Islamic culture which drives our community to be at the forefront and championing so much good in the society. She urged the need of more Muslims elected to the government because we need these humanitarian values to be brought in our politics.
Attendees at the banquet.
The event was also addressed by Dr. Arif Hussain, the founding member of Islamic Learning Foundation in Chicago, who explained that the meaning of Muslim representation in politics is not just an “Identity Politics”. Rather it is to establish the five universal principles that Islam has laid out for the benefit of humankind. He summed up those five principles as Preservation of ‘Human life’, ‘Wealth’, ‘Intellect’, ‘Family’ and ‘Dignity of Human being’.
In his keynote address Dr. Zahid Bukhari, Executive Director ICNA CSJ, described how Muslim migrant community has gradually matured. In the initial stage the primary focus was merely on preserving the cultural practices. But Islamic values demands to play an active role in the affairs of the state and building the nation. Understanding this visionary role of Muslims, ICNA was established in 1968 to promote the bonding of brotherhood and spreading the message of Islam to the fellow countrymen. In 1992 it also took the responsibility of giving their share to the deprived countrymen by providing them financial help and support through ICNA Relief. And in 2009 ICNA established Council of Social Justice to fulfill their duty of being an active participant in policy making decisions of the state.
He urged the Muslim youths to stand up for justice and be the part of different civic engagement profiles from school boards to different commissions, at county level, state level and federal level.
The event was also addressed by noted Islamic author Abdullah Al-Ahsan and Osama Jamal, Secretary General United States Council of Muslim Organization. Tariq Kareem – Consul General Pakistan embassy, Sadia Covert, Ashfaq Syed, Muez Bawany, Haroon Atcha, Junaid Ahmad were among the many other dignitaries and civic leaders who attended the gathering.