The Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) just finished a wonderful series of 4 public dialogues with funding from Illinois Humanities through its “Illinois Speaks” program.

MALA’s events focused on Muslim identity, and included:

  • Sept. 21: Discussion around the question of “What does it take to be a teacher?”, with 35 people in attendance and featuring the Davis Guggenheim documentary “Teach.”
  • Oct. 5: Discussion following the screening of “What Tomorrow Brings,” on an all-girls school in Afghanistan, with 115 people in attendance.
  • Oct. 11: Discussion on the topic of sexual harassment, with 70 people in attendance, featuring a screening of “She Power Rising” at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum.
  • Dec. 8: Discussion following the screening of “He Named Me Malala,” around Noble Peace Prize winners Jane Addams and Malala Yousafzai, with 65 people in attendance.

Zainab Khan of MALA says the key to attracting diverse audiences to these discussions was first and foremost offering topics and themes of interest, but also employing rich — ranging from Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Participant Media, and Loyola University — as well as extensive outreach via social media.

The dates for events coincided with days of symbolic importance, such as the International Day of the Girl and the UN’s Human Rights’ Day. All of the events were meant to show attendees receptiveness and support and began with first person accounts of experiences, which Khan says is a model MALA has used before to encourage participation.


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