Every weekend, the volunteers of GainPeace, a Muslim group based in Chicago, reserve a table, pack up a tent, banners, Qurans, and placards and visit a public festival in Chicago.
They have visited the BBQ Fest, the Music Fest, Sausage Fest among the many festivals. As they throw up the tent and set up the banners and the literature, many curious onlookers walk up to ask questions about Islam. ‘It’s a strange place for Muslims to share their message. But we support our American Muslims during these challenging times, to get out their narrative” comments one festival visitor. He came to the booth after getting attracted by the big banner that said, ‘This is Islam.’
Visitors to these booths can expect to receive free translations of the Quran in English or Spanish, a book on the life of Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, as well as a book on the 50 common questions asked about Islam, Chicago Tribune reported.
Dr. Sabeel Ahmed, Director of GainPeace states, “Hopefully, by reading from the source of Islam, the Quran, the readers will find that Islam stands against violence, killing and injustice and for justice and preservation of all lives.”
So far this year, GainPeace has hosted 105 outreach booths in the Chicago area and the cities of Detroit, Kansas, NY, Toronto etc. About 5000 Qurans, 32000 pamphlets, and 1200 books were distributed at these booths in 2016.
Mr. Warren Kundis, a volunteer at GainPeace outreach table and convert to Islam, states: “Some responded negatively to these tables. A visitor to the festival, after looking at table banner which read ‘Discover Islam’, angrily shouted ‘Trump’, spat at a GainPeace volunteer and walked away.” Mr. Kundis continues “besides that incident, the response has been mostly positive so far. People come to take the free literature, ask questions about Islam and discuss contemporary issues in the context of Islam. Many greeted us with ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (Happy Ramadan’), and ‘As¬salamu¬alaykum’ (peace be upon you).’
Due to the positive response from outreach tables, GainPeace has planned an additional 15 outreach booths in July and August of 2016.
Besides the outreach tables, GainPeace is actively challenging the misperceptions about Islam via educational messages about Islam on highway billboards, arranging Mosque open houses for neighbors, running TV ads and through mailing Islamic literature in neighborhoods.
GainPeace is an outreach project of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).