MPAC Staff Leads I Am Change Workshop at IECOC

July 17, 2013

On Saturday, July 6, MPAC held an I Am Change workshop at the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County (IECOC) in Costa Mesa, CA. The IECOC is special — at noon the sunlight falls through the skylights lending a poetically serene aura to the room. With Persian rugs lining the floors, the air is peacefully still.

I Am Change is one of MPAC’s programs that helps educate and promote civic engagement with an Islamic perspective. This program teaches American Muslims how to become involved in their broader communities and implement change in policy and public opinion.

Salam Al-Marayati, MPAC President, Edina Lekovic, Director of Policy & Programming, and Cherif Abou El Fadl, Community Outreach Fellow, said it was a pleasure on many fronts to spend an early Saturday afternoon with the youth of IECOC.

“What is civic engagement?” Al-Marayati asked the audience of 20 as they ran through the possible definitions in their heads. “Civic means pertaining to citizenship or citizens. As for engagement, I think it is fair to say we’re not talking about marriage in this context.”

The room filled with laughter as they began to warm up.  “So ‘civic’ means people. Add ‘engagement’ and then it means ‘being involved with people’. Bottom line: It’s all about being an active citizen.”

Al-Marayati hit the nail on the head. To have a healthy nation, its citizens must be involved and invest in the issues they feel passionate about. Even the Quran calls for civic engagement:

“People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into nations and tribes so that you should get to know one another…” (Quran 49:13)

Al-Marayati wrapped up his segment and set the stage by connecting the dots between good citizenry, Islamic duty and the reality of eliciting change. All change throughout our history has been brought about by a small dedicated group focusing on their local community — and then it spread like wildfire.

Lekovic took the stage after breaking for pizza and tea. She transitioned back into the workshop with another pearl from the Quran:

“God does not change the condition of a people  unless they change that which is within themselves.” (Quran 8:53)

“As Muslims, it is our responsibility to actively stand for mercy, justice, compassion, equality and all the values we hold as American Muslims close to our hearts,” Lekovic said. “It is our responsibility, but we just need the skills.”

One of the skills Lekovic shared with the participants is “how to get people to care more about the issues we care about in the way that we care about them.” It's a skill that is deceptively simple and simultaneously nuanced in its mastery.

What it boils down to is effective communication. Lekovic outlined the three ingredients for communicating effectively which pertain to many scenarios: family issues, media interviews, meeting with an elected official, etc.

These three ingredients are:

  1. Know your audience.
  2. Find the common ground between you and your audience.
  3. Connect the issue you care about in relation to your common ground.

Deceptively simple, but the picture becomes clearer when you understand “issue framing.” Being able to present a specific issue through the lens of a larger-than-life value is the basis of framing issues effectively. According to cognitive psychologists, 95 percent of our decisions are made based off of our emotional-gut reactions. One of the most valuable skills the I Am Change workshop teaches is how to bypass any person or person’s biases; regardless of their creed, background and nationality.

I Am Change is a vehicle for societal change. MPAC is here to change our communities for the better, advocate for the marginalized and defend the Islamic values of mercy, justice, compassion, equality and human dignity.

To bring an I Am Change workshop to your community, contact us at or at 323-258-6722.



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