In 1997, community organizer Dr. Rami Nashashibi saw the Muslim community of Chicago’s South Side struggling in the face of systemic injustice. With goals of revitalizing the city, Dr. Nashashibi founded The Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), which “fosters health, wellness and healing in the inner-city by organizing for social change, cultivating the arts, and operating a holistic health center.”
In a 2013 interview with National Public Radio, Dr. Nashashibi said that IMAN was born out of the need for “a community-based organization that connected the disconnected sectors of our communities; both in urban areas and in the larger middle-class sectors of the Muslim communities who were ready to mobilize.” IMAN builds these connections and support networks through a wide array of initiatives; such as food pantries and policy advocacy.
One such policy IMAN has continually supported is the recently-passed Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) ordinance, which is aimed at “fundamentally [transforming] policing and public safety in Chicago by creating civilian bodies with powers beyond just the current advisory role existing bodies possess.” Commonly known as “the People’s Ordinance,” it was created in 2020 by the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) and Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) after years of organizing for community control over public safety as a response to the continuing trend of police brutality.
In addition to policy advocacy, IMAN prioritizes bringing about social change through Islam itself. “A big part of creating IMAN was trying to create community efforts that could show what Islam actually is in practice––not necessarily only in theory” says an IMAN spokesperson. While IMAN has gone through many operational changes since 1997, the Five Pillars of Islam remain at the forefront of the organization’s work.
According to them, IMAN promises to provide local services with equal emphasis on “the mind, the body, and the soul”––the whole human being. For example, IMAN’s health care initiatives are built to fully meet individuals’ needs by combining a focus on the healing of the physical body with the work of experienced mental health professionals. IMAN’s Community Health Center in Chicago provides comprehensive healthcare, including physicals, cancer screening, vaccinations, diabetes care, blood pressure management, and women’s health, as well as pediatric care. IMAN also works closely with Sinai Health System to ensure that hospital-based care is available to patients and offers COVID-19 testing and vaccinations weekly.
They also emphasize IMAN’s fine arts classes and the Green ReEntry program––a foundational branch of the organization that provides a wide array of services to formerly incarcerated citizens and high-risk youth. Offerings like these, says the representative, help to initiate the transition out of a “mode of survival” that many Chicagoans often find themselves in. “We work to serve those that are directly affected,” they say. “And a lot of us are directly affected.”
The views expressed are those held by the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chicago Monitor.