My name is Carissa Flint and I am one of CAIR’s spring 2013 Interns. I am currently a Senior at Oklahoma City University, studying World Religions. Prior to moving to Oklahoma City, I lived in Chicago and was able to get acquainted with CAIR Chicago’s mission in one of the country’s most religiously diverse cities. Before living in Chicago, I had the opportunity to grow up in Kuwait and the UAE. This experience instilled in me a plethora of things, but three in particular come to mind: a deep respect for Arab and Islamic culture, a hope that religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence can be a reality, and, of course, a love of kanafeh.
My time overseas helped highlight the inclusive spirit that is so prevalent within Islamic culture. Whether it was the promotion of gender equality, the acceptance of people from a variety of religious backgrounds, or the overwhelming hospitality that was shown to me, I could see the progressiveness and attention to social justice that Islam emphasizes everywhere I went. The tendency towards tolerance is seemingly instilled in Islamic culture and has forever impacted me for the better. An instance of such open-mindedness that I remember fondly was the 2009 Kuwaiti Parliamentary Elections which resulted in four women, the first ever, being elected to the country’s national government. While women participating in politics is not a new concept here, it was the first time I truly grasped the power of the civil liberties, like voting rights, that I had taken for granted so long while living in America. It was at this point that I became confident that becoming an advocate for minority groups and promoting social justice needed to be my highest priority.
Oklahoma is such a wonderfully unique place to be supporting the expansion of religious understanding, interfaith dialogue, and civil liberties, as the Islamic community here is both proactive and progressive. More specifically, initiatives such as the Know Your Rights campaign that CAIR Oklahoma has worked to promote have undoubtedly been successful in bridging the cultural and religious gaps that, unfortunately, exist in our state. Aspects such as those, alongside the multitude of civil rights cases that the organization has championed, motivated me to join CAIR on its journey to advance the rights of not only American Muslims, but also Oklahoma Muslims. It is clear that there is a demand to cater to the specific needs of the Muslim population here and I am confident that CAIR Oklahoma is committed to growing its influence within the state, whether it is through creative new programs or maintaining its strong coalitions with other advocacy groups.
I believe the work that CAIR Oklahoma does in the coming months will be crucial to fostering a culture where the promotion of successful interfaith talks and civil advocacy is of the utmost importance. I’m excited to be a part of CAIR Oklahoma, where its members and supporters are truly committed to progressive activism and comprehensively serving the needs of Oklahoma’s Muslim community.