By Yousef Ahmad

On Thursday, July 20th, 2017, Emgage, a non-profit organization which seeks to educate, engage and empower the Muslim Community, was on Capitol Hill for the organization’s first Hill Day. The day began with a Congressional Breakfast Reception featuring Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), followed by meetings with 70 Congressional members on both sides of the aisle. During the breakfast reception, Congressman Ellison said, “We live in a moment where if we do not engage this process, people will make laws and policies, they’ll create public culture, and create a public narrative and it won’t involve us.”

After the breakfast, Hayat Washington spoke with Wa’el Alzayat, the CEO of Emgage:

Could you tell us what is Emgage and how you became involved?

Emgage is a national civic education, and mobilization and advocacy organization. It’s been around for 10 years and we’re located in 5 states, as well as here in Washington, D.C. We focus on mobilizing and educating Muslim voters and any other communities that share our values. We want to get people to understand what the political process is, not just nationally but locally as well.

So today’s event is Hill Day, could you explain what Hill Day is all about?

Hill Day is about your average citizens coming together to Washington, D.C. to meet with their elected officials and getting to know them. To let them know that we are active participants in the civic life and space, as well as discussing issues that affect us all. Today for instance, we’ll be speaking about hate crimes and how we can work together to combat it and deter it. We also want to discuss the very troubling travel ban that we feel is discriminatory against Muslims, and to talk about our concerns regarding the healthcare situation. The most important thing however, is that elected officials are aware of our presence and that they will be held responsible, but we are also good allies to have on achieving common objectives.

Earlier both yourself and Congressman Keith Ellison mentioned a piece of legislation, HR257, what is its purpose?

Yes, it’s House Resolution 257, it condemns hate crimes against ethnic and religious minorities, and enumerates some of the more troubling statistics, such as by the FBI, where they say there has been a 67% increase from 2014 to 2015. The resolution also pushes for stronger data collection and reporting, prosecution of these attacks to serve as a deterrent for future perpetrators.

So far we’ve focused on the work Emgage has done in Washington, D.C., what work is being done by your local chapters?

This is actually our strength. What we’re doing in Washington today is fairly new, but we have these local chapters and everything we’re doing here today, they’re doing it at the state level. They have their own capital day there, in the various states where we operate and meet with state representatives. We engage them on issues of criminal justice reform, immigration reform, healthcare, and obviously Islamophobia. So, it’s really a full spectrum of grassroots engagement.

If there is any one message you wanted to give to both the Arab Community and larger U.S. Citizenry, what would you want to tell them?

Given what’s happening in the world, particularly when we hear about climate change, when you read about how places like Miami could be underwater in 50 years or a century, or how the surface temperature of large chunks of land will be too hot to inhabit, it puts things in perspective. We’re talking about a border wall with Mexico right now, if it’s too hot in that region, does it truly matter what side of that border you live on? You simply can’t live there. People are fighting over slivers of the Middle East right now. Is it going to really matter who owns that piece of real estate if it’s uninhabitable if you literally cannot live there? I think it’s time that we start rallying around sound policies, pragmatic policies. You need these policies to set the foundation for the next century. Are you pushing for more healthcare for people or not? Are you pushing for sound economic policy or not? Are you pushing for war or peace? Then look back, add it up, and make a decision that hopefully lays the foundation for the future in a more humane and pragmatic manner. If we don’t, our children today are going to be confronting some very difficult decisions that they may not have answers to. That’s what Emgage is about; rallying around issues in pursuit of the common good.

 ‬بقلم‭ ‬يوسف‭ ‬احمد

في‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬الخميس‭ ‬20‭ ‬يوليو‭ ‬2017،‭ ‬كانت‭ ‬إمجيج،‭ ‬وهي‭ ‬منظمة‭ ‬غير‭ ‬ربحية‭ ‬تسعى‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬تثقيف‭ ‬وإشراك‭ ‬وتمكين‭ ‬المجتمع‭ ‬الإسلامى‭ ‬فى‭ ‬الكونجرس‭ ‬الأمريكي‭ ‬،‭  ‬كانوا‭ ‬متواجدين‭ ‬لتنظيم‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬الكابيتول‭ ‬الأول‭ ‬للكونجرس‭ . ‬بدأ‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬مع‭ ‬وجبة‭ ‬إفطار‭ ‬فى‭ ‬الكونجرس‭ ‬بحضور‭ ‬البرلمانيي‭ ‬كيث‭ ‬اليسون‭ ( ‬من‭ ‬ولاية‭ ‬مينيسوتا‭) ‬و‭ ‬70‭ ‬من‭ ‬أعضاء‭ ‬الكونغرس‭ ‬الأميركى‭ ‬على‭ ‬جانبى‭ ‬الممر‭. ‬وأثناء‭ ‬تناول‭  ‬الفطور‭, ‬قال‭ ‬عضو‭  ‬الكونغرس‭ ‬اليسون‭  ‬‮«‬أننا‭ ‬نعيش‭ ‬فى‭ ‬الوقت‭ ‬الذى‭ ‬إذا‭ ‬لم‭ ‬نندمج‭ ‬فيه‭ ‬مع‭ ‬الأحداث‭ ‬سيعمل‭ ‬الناس‭ ‬على‭ ‬خلق‭ ‬قوانين‭ ‬وسياسات‭ ‬وسيكونون‭ ‬ثقافة‭ ‬شعبية‭ ‬جديدة‭ ‬لن‭ ‬تتضمننا‮»‬‭ ‬

وبعد‭ ‬إنتهاء‭ ‬الإفطار‭ ‬إستطاعت‭ ‬حياة‭ ‬واشنطن‭ ‬الحديث‭ ‬مع‭ ‬وائل‭ ‬الزيات‭ ‬،‭ ‬المديرالتنفيذي‭ ‬لمنظمة‭ ‬إمجيج ‬

‭ ‬أيمكنك‭ ‬إخبارنا‭ ‬ما‭ ‬هى‭ ‬منظمة‭ ‬إم‭ ‬جيج‭ ‬وكيفية‭ ‬إنضمامك‭ ‬إليها‭ ‬؟

إمجيج‭ ‬هى‭ ‬منظمة‭ ‬وطنية‭ ‬للتثقيف‭ ‬المدنى‭ ‬وتعبئة‭ ‬الموارد‭ ‬البشرية‭ ‬والدعوة‭ ‬،‭ ‬لقد‭ ‬أُسست‭ ‬منذ‭ ‬حوالى‭ ‬10‭ ‬سنوات‭ ‬ولها‭ ‬فروع‭ ‬فى‭ ‬خمس‭ ‬ولايات‭ ‬وكذلك‭ ‬هنا‭ ‬فى‭ ‬العاصمة‭ ‬واشنطن‭ . ‬تركز‭ ‬المنظمة‭ ‬على‭ ‬تعبئة‭ ‬وتثقيف‭ ‬الناخبين‭ ‬المسلمين‭ ‬والمجتمعات‭ ‬الأخرى‭ ‬التى‭ ‬تشاركنا‭ ‬قيمنا‭. ‬نريد‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يفهم‭ ‬الناس‭ ‬ما‭ ‬هى‭ ‬العملية‭ ‬السياسية‭ , ‬ليس‭ ‬فقط‭ ‬عالمياً‭ ‬ولكن‭ ‬على‭ ‬الصعيد‭ ‬المحلى‭ ‬أيضاً‭ .‬

حسناً‭ ‬،حدث‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬هو‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬الكابيتول‭ ‬،‭ ‬هل‭ ‬يمكنك‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تشرح‭ ‬لنا‭ ‬ما‭ ‬هو‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬الكابيتول؟

يعبر‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬عن‭ ‬قيام‭ ‬المواطنين‭ ‬العادين‭ ‬بزيارة‭ ‬العاصمة‭ ‬واشنطن‭ ‬للقاء‭ ‬بنوابهم‭ ‬الذين‭ ‬انتخبوهم‭ ‬ولجعلعم‭ ‬يعرفون‭ ‬أننا‭ ‬نشطاء‭ ‬ومشاركين‭ ‬فاعلين‭ ‬فى‭ ‬الحياة‭ ‬المدنية‭ ‬بالإضافة‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬مناقشة‭ ‬القضايا‭ ‬التى‭ ‬تهمنا‭ ‬جميعاً‭ . ‬

اليوم‭ ‬على‭ ‬سبيل‭ ‬المثال‭, ‬يمكننا‭ ‬الحديث‭ ‬عن‭ ‬جرائم‭ ‬الكراهية‭, ‬وكيف‭ ‬نعمل‭ ‬معاً‭ ‬لمكافحتها‭ ‬وردعها‭. ‬ونريد‭ ‬أيضاً‭ ‬أن‭ ‬نناقش‭ ‬قضية‭ ‬حظر‭ ‬السفر‭ ‬المقلقة‭ ‬جداً‭ ‬التى‭ ‬نرى‭ ‬أنها‭ ‬تمييزية‭ ‬ضد‭ ‬المسلمين‭ ‬والتحدث‭ ‬عن‭ ‬إهتماماتنا‭ ‬بخصوص‭ ‬الرعاية‭ ‬الصحية‭. ‬أهم‭ ‬شئ‭ ‬مع‭ ‬ذلك‭ ‬هو‭ ‬ان‭ ‬يدرك‭ ‬المسؤولون‭ ‬المنتخبون‭ ‬وجودنا‭ ‬وأنهم‭ ‬سيحاسبون‭ ‬ويتحملون‭ ‬المسئولية‭ ‬ولكننا‭ ‬أيضا‭ ‬حلفاء‭ ‬جيدين‭ ‬فى‭ ‬تحقيق‭ ‬الأهداف‭ ‬المشتركة‭. ‬

فى‭ ‬وقت‭ ‬سابق‭ ‬أشرت‭ ‬بنفسك‭ ‬وكذلك‭ ‬النائبة‭ ‬كيث‭ ‬إليسون‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬تشريع‭ ‬إتش‭ ‬أر‭ ‬257،‭ ‬ماذا‭ ‬كان‭ ‬الغرض‭ ‬منه؟‭ ‬

بالفعل‭ ‬،‭ ‬إنه‭ ‬قرار‭ ‬البيت‭ ‬رقم‭  ‬257،‭ ‬الذى‭ ‬يدين‭ ‬جرائم‭ ‬الكراهية‭ ‬ضد‭ ‬الأقليات‭ ‬الإثنية‭ ‬والدينية،‭ ‬ويضم‭ ‬بعض‭ ‬الإحصاءات‭ ‬الأكثر‭ ‬إثارة‭ ‬للقلق‭ ‬على‭ ‬سبيل‭ ‬المثال‭ ‬ذكر‭ ‬مكتب‭ ‬التحقيقات‭ ‬الفدرالي‭ ‬أن‭ ‬هناك‭ ‬زيادة‭ ‬67٪‭ ‬من‭ ‬2014‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬2015‭. ‬القرار‭ ‬أيضا‭ ‬يدفع‭ ‬لزيادة‭ ‬وكفاءة‭ ‬جمع‭ ‬البيانات‭ ‬والإبلاغ‭ ‬عنها،‭ ‬ومقاضاة‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬الهجمات‭ ‬لتكون‭ ‬رادعاً‭ ‬لمرتكبيهاً‭ ‬في‭ ‬المستقبل‭.‬

حسنا‭ ‬لقد‭ ‬ركزنا‭ ‬حديثنا‭ ‬عن‭ ‬العمل‭ ‬الذى‭ ‬تقوم‭ ‬به‭ ‬منظمة‭ ‬إم‭ ‬جيج‭ ‬فى‭ ‬العاصمة‭ ‬واشنطن‭ ‬،‭ ‬ماذا‭ ‬عن‭ ‬الدور‭ ‬الذى‭ ‬تقوم‭ ‬به‭ ‬فروع‭ ‬المنظمة‭ ‬المحلية؟

هذا‭ ‬هو‭ ‬في‭ ‬الواقع‭ ‬هو‭ ‬نقطة‭ ‬قوتنا‭. ‬ما‭ ‬نقوم‭ ‬به‭ ‬في‭ ‬واشنطن‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬جديد‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬حد‭ ‬ما،‭ ‬ولكن‭ ‬نحن‭ ‬لدينا‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬الفروع‭ ‬المحلية‭ ‬وكل‭ ‬ما‭ ‬نقوم‭ ‬به‭ ‬هنا‭ ‬اليوم‭ ‬فهم‭ ‬يفعلون‭ ‬مثله‭ ‬على‭ ‬مستوى‭ ‬ولايتهم‭. ‬لديهم‭ ‬يوم‭ ‬العاصمة‭ ‬الخاص‭ ‬بهم‭ ‬هناك،‭ ‬في‭ ‬مختلف‭ ‬الولايات‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬نعمل‭ ‬ونجتمع‭ ‬مع‭ ‬ممثلي‭ ‬الدولة‭. ‬ونشاركهم‭ ‬في‭ ‬قضايا‭ ‬إصلاح‭ ‬العدالة‭ ‬الجنائية‭ ‬وإصلاح‭ ‬الهجرة‭ ‬والرعاية‭ ‬الصحية‭ ‬وبالطبع‭ ‬الإسلاموفوبيا‭. ‬لذلك‭ ‬هو‭ ‬حقاً‭ ‬نموذج‭ ‬مكتمل‭ ‬للمشاركة‭ ‬الشعبية‭.‬

إذا‭ ‬أرسلك‭ ‬إليك‭ ‬أحدهم‭ ‬يريدك‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تعطى‭ ‬نصيحة‭ ‬للمجتمع‭ ‬العربى‭ ‬والأمريكى‭ ‬على‭ ‬حدا‭ ‬سواء‭ ‬،‭ ‬ماذا‭ ‬تقول‭ ‬لهم؟

بالنظر‭ ‬إلى‭  ‬ما‭ ‬يحدث‭ ‬في‭ ‬العالم،‭ ‬لا‭ ‬سيما‭ ‬عندما‭ ‬نسمع‭ ‬عن‭ ‬تغير‭ ‬المناخ‭ ‬وعندما‭ ‬نقرأ‭ ‬عن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬أماكن‭ ‬مثل‭ ‬ولاية‭ ‬ميامي‭ ‬يمكن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تكون‭ ‬تحت‭ ‬الماء‭ ‬في‭ ‬خلال‭ ‬50‭ ‬عاماً‭ ‬أو‭ ‬قرن‭ ‬أو‭ ‬كيف‭ ‬أن‭ ‬درجة‭ ‬حرارة‭ ‬سطح‭ ‬مساحة‭ ‬كبيرة‭ ‬من‭ ‬الكرة‭ ‬الأرضية‭ ‬ستكون‭ ‬ساخنة‭ ‬جداً‭ ‬للحد‭ ‬الذى‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يستطيع‭ ‬الإنسان‭ ‬معه‭ ‬تحمل‭  ‬السكن‭ ‬فيها‭. ‬كل‭ ‬هذا‭  ‬يضع‭ ‬الأمور‭ ‬في‭ ‬المنظور‭ ‬الصحيح‭ . ‬نحن‭ ‬نتحدث‭ ‬الآن‭ ‬عن‭ ‬الجدار‭ ‬الحدودي‭ ‬مع‭ ‬المكسيك‭ ‬،‭ ‬فى‭ ‬حين‭ ‬أن‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬المنطقة‭ ‬ستكون‭ ‬ساخنة‭ ‬جداً‭ ‬،‭ ‬هل‭ ‬حقا‭ ‬يهم‭ ‬أي‭ ‬جانب‭ ‬من‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬الجدار‭ ‬الحدودى‭ ‬يمكن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تعيش‭ ‬عليه؟‭ ‬أنت‭ ‬ببساطة‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يمكن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تعيش‭ ‬هناك‭. ‬يقاتل‭ ‬الناس‭ ‬على‭ ‬أشلاء‭ ‬الشرق‭ ‬الأوسط‭ ‬الآن‭. ‬هل‭ ‬يهم‭ ‬حقاً‭ ‬من‭ ‬يملك‭ ‬تلك‭ ‬الرقعة‭ ‬من‭ ‬العقارات‭ ‬إذا‭ ‬كانت‭ ‬غير‭ ‬صالحة‭ ‬للسكن‭ ‬حيث‭ ‬أنك‭  ‬حرفياً‭ ‬لا‭ ‬يمكن‭ ‬أن‭ ‬تعيش‭ ‬هناك؟‭ ‬وأعتقد‭ ‬أن‭ ‬الوقت‭ ‬قد‭ ‬حان‭ ‬لكي‭ ‬نبدأ‭ ‬بالتجمع‭ ‬حول‭ ‬سياسات‭ ‬سليمة‭ ‬وسياسات‭ ‬عملية‭. ‬تحتاج‭ ‬هذه‭ ‬السياسات‭ ‬لوضع‭ ‬الأساس‭ ‬للقرن‭ ‬القادم‭. ‬هل‭ ‬ندفع‭ ‬لتقديم‭ ‬المزيد‭ ‬من‭ ‬الرعاية‭ ‬الصحية‭ ‬للناس‭ ‬أم‭ ‬لا؟‭ ‬هل‭ ‬ندفع‭ ‬لسياسة‭ ‬إقتصادية‭ ‬سليمة‭ ‬أم‭ ‬لا؟‭ ‬هل‭ ‬ندفع‭ ‬للحرب‭ ‬أم‭ ‬السلام؟‭ ‬ثم‭ ‬ننظر‭ ‬إلى‭ ‬الوراء،‭ ‬نأخذه‭ ‬فى‭ ‬الإعتبار‭ ‬ونسعى‭ ‬لإتخاذ‭ ‬القرار‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬نأمل‭ ‬أن‭ ‬يكون‭ ‬الأساس‭ ‬للمستقبل‭ ‬بطريقة‭ ‬أكثر‭ ‬إنسانية‭ ‬وأكثرعملية‭. ‬وإذا‭ ‬لم‭ ‬نفعل‭ ‬ذلك،‭ ‬فإن‭ ‬أطفالنا‭ ‬سيواجهون‭ ‬بعض‭ ‬القرارات‭ ‬الصعبة‭ ‬جداً‭ ‬التي‭ ‬قد‭ ‬لا‭ ‬تكون‭ ‬لديهم‭ ‬إجابات‭ ‬عليها‭. ‬هذا‭ ‬ما‭ ‬تهتم‭ ‬به‭ ‬إمجيج‭ ‬؛‭ ‬تحاول‭ ‬لم‭ ‬الشمل‭ ‬حول‭ ‬القضايا‭ ‬سعياً‭ ‬وراء‭ ‬الصالح‭ ‬العام‭ .‬