Another federal court battle is brewing over a northwest suburb’s refusal this summer to let a 160-member Islamic group open a mosque in a vacant building in an industrial area.
The lawsuit filed Monday against Des Plaines and five of its aldermen is the latest to take on a “knee-jerk reaction to something Islamic or Muslim,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Chicago.
His group helped win a $445,000 settlement from DuPage County in a similar case earlier this year. Now, it’s backing the case brought by the American Islamic Center and its attorney, Tony Peraica.
“We believe this was done for discriminatory reasons,” Peraica said.
Des Plaines officials either declined to comment Monday or failed to return calls from the Sun-Times.
Nearly all of the American Islamic Center’s members are Bosnian refugees from the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to its lawsuit. It said it entered a contract in February to buy an empty office building on 1.8 acres of land at 1645 Birchwood Ave., for religious and educational activities.
The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) said today that two air rifle shots were fired last night at the outer wall of the Muslim Education Center (MEC) mosque in Morton Grove, Ill.
The shots were heard by worshipers who were outside the mosque and were powerful enough to damage the building’s brick wall. (The Muslim Community Center (MCC), of which the MEC is a suburban branch, is the oldest Muslim center in Illinois.)
A neighbor, who has a history of opposition to the mosque, allegedly fired the shots. Morton Grove police, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office are all investigating the incident.
“This is obviously an alarming situation that all parties are taking very seriously. The weapon allegedly used in this incident is powerful enough to kill, and the projectiles reportedly came within inches of the head of the security guard on duty,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab.
Rehab toured the mosque site today with Muslim community leaders, the local police commander and the assistant state attorney. He said mosque leaders and community members are cooperating with the investigation and that a variety of charges are being considered.
“We have full trust in the professionals handling this investigation. They are doing everything in their power to keep communities safe and ensure that justice is served,” said Rehab.
Earlier this week, CAIR’s national headquarters issued a community safety advisory for American mosques following other incidents targeting Muslim houses of worship in Missouri and Rhode Island and after the deadly shooting attack Sunday on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
American Muslims are complaining that their faith is being used as a scare tactic in the 2008 US presidential race. Controversy caused by a photograph of Democratic candidate Barack Obama dressed in African garb may be indicative of deeper anti-Muslim sentiments. Even though the photographs of Obama wearing a turban and dressed in tribal garb on a 2006 visit to Kenya, his father’s homeland, the vision strikes up uncomfortable images of Muslim-ness in the presidential hopeful. During Tuesday’s presidential debate, he was also questioned about support from Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan, and is receiving criticisms from his opponent Hillary Clinton, even after denouncing Farrakhan’s endorsement. Obama, a Christian, has fought rumors about his religious allegiance, including uneasiness over _Hussein’ – his middle name. Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR said: When it comes to Muslims, the divisive rhetoric coming out of this year’s election ranges from the exclusionary to the just plain bigoted,” he said, adding that neither Obama nor any other candidate had adequately addressed the anti-Muslim climate. Rehab applauds the positive signs of having a black candidate for presidency being taken seriously and having tremendous success, but is saddened about the other evident prejudices – namely, the obsession with religion.
In a U.S. election campaign where presidential candidates from both major parties have talked openly about their faith and reach out to America’s large Christian base of voters, some non-Christians feel left out of the dialogue. Despite the constitutional separation of church and state, religion plays a big and often decisive role in American politics. “Non-Christians are concerned that they will be excluded from the process,” said Ahmed Rehab, a spokesman with the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Estimates of the numbers of non-Christians in America vary; it’s estimated that Jews, Muslims, Hindus and people of other religions make up less than 10% of the US population.
CAIRO – A leading US Muslim advocacy group is championing a leadership training seminar for fighting stereotypes and empowering American Muslims to define themselves in US society, reported the Daily Southtown on Thursday, September 27. “We have to fix that, by making people aware of who we are,” said student Nadia Ahmed. Ahmed took part in the leadership training seminar organized by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) at Universal School in Bridgeview to teach American Muslims how to clear stereotypes. What non-Muslims might think when they see hijab-clad women at the shopping mall, asked Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of CAIR’s Chicago office. “Terrorists, crazy, oppressed,” the students shouted.