by Junelly Gonzalez

The Center for Civic Leadership and Sadia G. Covert organized the Hate Crime Awareness Symposium at Benedictine University on Wednesday, March 25.

The event consisted of six panelists including Aymen Abdel Halim, Rabya Khan, Rabbi Marc D. Rudolph, Zainab Zeb Khan, Sharan Kaur Singh, and Vick A. Lombardo. The panelists addressed hate crimes and their prevalence in today’s society as well as the devastating and long lasting effects on their victims.

“This event was excellent. Hate is a problem we experience in multiple communities and anytime someone or something is different people tend to overreact or need time to understand the similarities as opposed to differences, said Terrence Hill from the office of Governor Bruce Rauner.
“There is a hate problem across the county as well as in Illinois and it is a problem we need to address. My boss is in support of anti-hate legislation. We condemn crimes against specific segments of our population because of race, religion, sex or creed.”

The event explained that the first step in eradicating hate crimes is self-education, particularly over the culture and beliefs of Muslims and Arabs.

“Meet Muslims, learn about Islam, go to a mosque, watch Muslims praying, do your own research, ask questions, challenge the media’s bias and inaccuracies. Terrorism and violence is prohibited and condemned in Islam. The Quran states that whoever kills a human being it shall be as if he has killed all mankind and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind. This is how much life is treasured in Islam and that is something that contradicts the images we see so often in the media,” said panelist Aymen Abdel Halim.

Not only was self-education touched on, but also spreading and providing others with accurate information was continuously emphasized as a key solution to the hate crime problem we face today.

“Education is important anywhere you go. Let people know this is who we are and this is what we do. The more we do that, the less hate there is going to be. Hate comes out of fear of the unknown so lets educate people so they do know,” said organizer Sadia Covert.

The event resonated with every member of the audience; specifically those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves.

“With hate crimes there is a lot of overt things we have been talking about, many in my life personally starting with being bullied at such a young age all the way to college and onwards. I have been called a terrorist, when I go out with friends I have in the back of my mind the worry of being called Osama Bin Laden, people say I don’t have much of an accent and ask when I arrived here from India, women get stared down in the subway; all those things need to be addressed. It is funny to some degree but when it’s your daily life it’s difficult. We have to work to gain understanding beyond our own issues,” said Ipninder Singh, alumni of Benedictine University.

At the conclusion of the night, the purpose of the event to spread awareness about hate crimes was fulfilled.

“I was truly amazed by the Sadia’s efforts to put this event on. I think everyone here learned something. A lot of what was brought up tonight you do hear about in the paper, but to hear true stories and feelings from people was really great. This event is a great step forward and an eye opener. By making myself more knowledgeable on the subject, I can better serve my residents,” said Mayor of Lisle, Joe Broda.