My name is Mohamed Elshekh, and I am a senior at Seton Hall University studying International Relations and Diplomacy as well as Religious Studies. I interned at the Council on American Islamic Relations, New Jersey Chapter (CAIR-NJ), as the Government Affairs Coordinator. My primary concern while searching for internships was finding a position that combined my passions for diplomacy and religion. CAIR-NJ serves as the largest Muslim civil rights organization in America, with chapters all across the country. This was the ideal position because their goal is to enhance Americans’ understanding of Islam, promote tolerance and justice, and empower American Muslims across the United States.
With CAIR-NJ, I was tasked with communicating the needs of CAIR to various political campaigns and government officials. My biggest responsibility was planning for the Muslim Day of Advocacy (MDA), an annual event held in Trenton, NJ where various Muslim delegates meet with elected officials to advocate on behalf of the Muslim community and educate on concerns. I was tasked with drafting talking points for MDA, preparing a fact sheet of the bills we will be supporting, and recruiting delegates who will be present the day of the event. In addition, I scheduled meetings with government officials so that we would have time to properly prepare our delegates before the meetings and so they would be able to speak about the bills in the NJ legislator and explain why the Muslim community either supports or rejects the proposed bill.
The work I completed with CAIR has transformed my outlook on civil rights work and domestic policy. I believed that as a Diplomacy student, my interests would only align at an internship that focused on issues relating to the international community. With CAIR, I learned that these small steps taken to change domestic policy can have far-reaching effects that alter international policy.
Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy provided me with the necessary skills to excel in the position. My background in International Relations and U.S foreign policy was essential for communicating with government officials and their staff, as well as creating fact-sheets and writing on behalf of the goals of CAIR. I recommend this internship to students who have a passion for civil rights and advocacy. This position served as a vital tool to my personal and career development. The professional skills and knowledge that I gained from CAIR will continue to help me after I graduate college and enter the job market.