Muslims hope for Rauner’s signature on advisory council bill


Source: Chicago Tribune

BY Manya Brachear Pashman

Contact Reporter

There might not be a budget, but Illinois could become the first state with a law on the books that gives Muslims a formal voice in government.

The creation of an Illinois Muslim-American Advisory Council is one of more than 400 bills awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner‘s signature. It landed on the Republican governor’s desk shortly before presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trumprenewed his call to ban Muslims entering the U.S., after a shooter of the Islamic faith killed 49 people at an Orlando, Fla., nightclub.

Muslim leaders say Rauner’s signing of the bill would send a welcome message to the community that Illinois does not condone Trump’s approach. The governor’s office said he is reviewing the bill.

“Given all that is going on with the misinterpretation about Islam and the interests and concerns of the Muslim American community, it’s almost obligatory on behalf of a governor of this state and all governors to have such a body,” said Kareem Irfan, a Chicago lawyer who led an earlier iteration of the council under Gov. Pat Quinn. “So we’re not subject to the whims of each governor, it would be good to make this a lasting institutional body.”

Along with a number of other minority advisory councils, the Muslim council that existed under Quinn dissolved when Rauner took office last year, Irfan said. This year’s hostile political climate prompted Muslim community leaders to propose a resolution that would restore it, and lawmakers took it one step further by proposing a statute that would establish the council more formally.

Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, a co-sponsor of the bill, said she hopes restoration of the council in the form of a law will be the first of many efforts to ensure the governor considers minority perspectives.

“We need to encourage our Muslim Americans to be civically engaged and participate,” Collins said. “If you don’t participate, the fringe elements establish the policy.”

The 21-member council, whose volunteer members would be appointed by the governor as well as leaders in the House and Senate, would advise the governor and General Assembly on issues affecting Muslim Americans and immigrants, including relations between Illinois and Muslim-majority countries. Through monthly meetings and two public hearings per year, members also would serve as liaisons between state agencies and communities across Illinois.

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