MPAC Encourages IECOC Youth to Be More Civically Engaged

September 11, 2013

Within the democracy that we live, we are provided the ability to improve our society, country and world. This is the heart of MPAC’s “I Am Change program, a workshop that empowers people to get directly involved in the issues that matter most to us and bring about tangible, long-lasting change. The goal of that program is that by strengthening our abilities to engage and empower, we can bring positive growth to our world.

Earlier this month, Edina Lekovic, Director of Policy & Programming, and Cherif Abou El Fadl, Community Outreach Fellow, met with the Islamic Education Center of Orange County for a follow-up meeting to the first “I Am Change” workshop held a month before.

During the first workshop, Salam Al-Marayati, President of MPAC, had discussed the strategy and importance behind civic engagement. This is especially pertinent to Muslims today in light of the daunting challenges we face against rising Islamophobia.

Lekovic emphasized the importance of framing in civic engagement. Based off of research from cognitive scientists, she discussed that 95 percent of our decision-making comes from our initial gut and emotional reaction as compared to only 5 percent coming from our rational, logical thinking.

“Framing is about getting someone, whether Congress or my husband, to care about the issues I care about, and in the way that I care about them,” she said. “Framing the topic appropriately allows you to bypass this emotional bias. It’s not an exact science, but it is extremely effective.”

The purpose of the second meeting was to strategize and plan the group’s next course of action. With Syria and military intervention on all of the youth’s minds, the team decided to write letters to their elected representatives and follow-up with a meeting.

The youth also focused on enhancing Muslim portrayal in the media by building personal relationships with reporters and local media and becoming a reference source for them. The first step in civic engagement is to demonstrate a reliable presence.

They also want to work on sectarian divides in the Muslim community by working on projects together with neighboring groups. The best way to overcome differences is to work for a cause under a common passion.

Finally, they want to engage their representatives to ensure that the Muslim voice is represented appropriately.

The goal of civic engagement is to become involved with society to bring about positive change. Through our contemporary Islamic approach to active citizenship, we learn how to engage decision makers at both the federal and state levels under the umbrella of the Islamic values of peace, mercy and justice. We strategically engage to develop a presence, which in turn gains us respect. That respect will result in being accepted at the decision table to offer advice and information about Muslims and Islam.

Permanent change takes time, focus and precise action, and the first step is hosting an “I Am Change” workshop in your community. To arrange a workshop in your area, email



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