WBEZ | Muslims http://www.wbez.org/tags/muslims Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago Iraqis react to deepening crisis back home http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-iraqis-react-deepening-crisis-back-home-110384 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Local Iraqis_0.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama announced Thursday that the U.S. will dispatch 300 military advisers to Iraq to help fight a fast-moving Islamist insurgency. The news could provide some hope to local Iraqis in Chicago, who have watched the deteriorating situation back home with increasing alarm.</p><p>The night before Mr. Obama&rsquo;s announcement, a group of them came together to talk about their anguish at the deepening crisis in Iraq.</p><p>They met in an unmarked storefront right next to 50th ward alderman Debra Silverstein&rsquo;s office on Devon Avenue, in the West Ridge neighborhood. A call to a phone number on a flier in the window resulted in a fellow named Deeyah Qasim calling back. He said he was eager to talk to a reporter about Iraq, and would be at the empty office at 4:30 p.m.</p><p>In fact, Qasim gathered at least 40 Iraqis into the space &ndash; formally registered as the Baghdad Bridge Organization. A medical technician, Qasim arrived in the U.S. two years ago as a refugee from Baghdad.</p><p>The meeting space is comfortable, if sparsely decorated. The floors are covered with carpets, the walls with colorful fabrics. He installed a door to partition a space for women in the back, from men in the front, in keeping with their Islamic cultural norms.</p><p>Qasim explained that their gatherings at the space started with his and four other families, who got together socially. He said they decided it would be good for Chicago&rsquo;s growing Iraqi refugee community to broaden the gatherings, so they pooled together money out of their own pockets, formed a 501(c)3 non-profit, and rented the space.</p><p>&ldquo;They are meeting together and talking,&rdquo; he said, when asked to describe what people do at the center. &ldquo;And we give our kids like culture. Because we don&rsquo;t like to lose our special culture for the Middle East thing, OK? We give our children Arabic language, too, we have many classes&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>Normally, the space is only open on Thursday and Friday evenings, after work hours. But on a Wednesday evening, men and women lined the walls, hoping to share their concerns about recent events in Iraq. One of them was Asaad Al-Ibrahimi, a refuge from Baghdad who came to the U.S. less than a year ago. He spoke Arabic, and 25-year old Shaker Alshummary translated into English.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s affected him immensely,&rdquo; Alshummary translated for Al-Ibrahimi, &ldquo;and he has people in Mosul &ndash;&nbsp;family members that have died. And it&rsquo;s took a toll on him mentally, and physically he can&rsquo;t work.&rdquo;</p><p>Al-Ibrahimi said he has been so distraught, he took a leave of absence from his warehouse job, and hasn&rsquo;t been to work since June 12. He said many of his young cousins went to Mosul to fight against militant Islamists from a group sometimes referred to as ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. They captured Iraq&rsquo;s second-biggest city last week. One of Al-Ibrahimi&rsquo;s cousins, newly married, was killed.</p><p>When asked whether he felt the U.S. should send soldiers to Iraq, Al-Ibrahimi responded in broken English, &ldquo;I hope. I hope (the U.S.) send(s) soldiers to Iraqi.&rdquo;</p><p>In fact, he said even though he&rsquo;s 46 years old and a grandfather of three, he would join the U.S. army if it sends troops there.</p><p>But not all agree that this would be an appropriate move. &ldquo;Actually we don&rsquo;t need soldiers, just we need support,&rdquo; said Qasim, &ldquo;like diplomatic support and equipment support.&rdquo;</p><p>Qasim and many others said they&rsquo;ve been frustrated watching the news play out from afar. He said all he can really do is implore Iraqis through his Facebook page, or via e-mail, to work together to resist the armed opposition to Iraq&rsquo;s government. &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t give the chance for the terrorist people to have control for another city,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Qasim and many others blamed &ldquo;foreign terrorists&rdquo; for the recent wave of violence in Iraq, and said they&rsquo;ve been aided by arms and other support from Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular. Most shared Qasim&rsquo;s sentiment that if Iraq&rsquo;s Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Kurds and Christians come together, they can drive the militants out.</p><p>But Hakim Hammadi disagreed.</p><p>&ldquo;All the Sunnah in Iraq, they are feeling they are outside the square of government,&rdquo; he said, referring to Iraq&rsquo;s Muslim minority group. Hammadi blamed Iraq&rsquo;s Shia prime minister Nouri al-Maliki for excluding Sunnis and other minorities from sharing power. &ldquo;This the wrong balance to government in Iraq,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Hammadi was the lone Sunni in the group on Wednesday night, and he dismissed others&rsquo; claim that &ldquo;foreign terrorists&rdquo; caused the problem. The 60-year old attorney, who came to the U.S. as a refugee two years ago, was also a member of the Ba&rsquo;athist Party, which ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein.</p><p>Despite their assurances that Iraqis of Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and Christian backgrounds all partake congenially in activities at the Baghdad Bridge Organization, the discussion exposed deep rifts. When Hammadi said he believes the only way forward for Iraq is to split into three separate states &ndash;&nbsp;one for Shia, one for Sunni, and one for Kurds &ndash;&nbsp;many scoffed at the notion.</p><p>Among those who refuse to entertain the idea of partitioning Iraq was Rina Abdulamir, a 19-year old student at Northeastern University. Abdulamir has been in the U.S. since she was a small child, but teared up when she spoke of her homeland.</p><p>&ldquo;I wish to go back there, I wish to go back there and we all build it together &ndash;&nbsp;all Shia, Sunnis, Kurds,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;And I wish to work with my degree that I got here, since I&rsquo;m working on my justice degree.&rdquo; Abdulamir said she could imagine working in the Iraqi government, or as a lawyer.</p><p>Despite occasional tensions in the room, after two-and-a-half hours of discussion, everyone said they were grateful to be heard. They said part of their stress has been feeling like nobody outside their community cares about events in Iraq. They said just getting their voices out there made them feel better.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="http://www.twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 08:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-iraqis-react-deepening-crisis-back-home-110384 American Muslim consumer market worth billions http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/american-muslim-consumer-market-worth-billions-109587 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/HauteHijab.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Melanie Elturk launched a modest fashion clothing line a few years ago out of her apartment in Chicago&mdash;joining the populous ranks of business entrepreneurs.</p><p>What makes El-Turk stand out is that she is in the vanguard of a movement to better reach a growing but not yet widely recognized market niche: consumers who, like Elturk, are American Muslims.</p><p>She started Haute Hijab because she did not feel that mainstream fashion catered to the modern young American Muslim.</p><p>Haute Hijab is what you might characterize as a mix of haute couture and the hijab, the religious dress code to which many Muslim women adhere.</p><p>Elturk now runs her online Chicago business from Dubai. She says she specifically designed her brand as a means to support young Muslim women growing up in the United States.</p><p>She says she found, while talking to young girls, that they struggled a lot with their identity.</p><p>&ldquo;One issue that always used to come up was hijab. Just as someone who always embraced hijab, it pained me to see people struggle with whether to wear it or keep it on,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>On her website, Elturk promotes modest fashion as something modern and classy. And she says she discovered an underserved market while developing and promoting her brand.</p><p>A 2010 study by the marketing firm Ogilvy Noor reported that the American Muslim consumer market was worth $170 billion.</p><p>The U.S. has an estimated 8 million Muslims, according to Lisa Mabe, founder of multicultural marketing firm Hewar Communications.</p><p>She says that makes for a lot of purchasing power: &ldquo;There are millions of consumers just waiting to see which brands will be smart enough to engage with them, and those who do will see first-hand not only their spending power but their brand loyalty and brand advocacy.&rdquo;</p><p>Mabe said missing the Muslim market today would be like missing the Latino market in the 1990&rsquo;s.</p><p>But big American companies have yet to latch on to this demographic -- leaving an opening that is being filled by Muslim entrepreneurs.</p><p>Simply Zeena is another modest fashion company whose designs are commonly worn by fashion-conscious Muslim women in the city.</p><p>Amany Jondy, a former Chicago resident, said her company was founded because she felt there was something missing.</p><p>&ldquo;It was the typical frustrated, not being able to find the sort of everyday American-inspired looks that were modest,&rdquo; she said, describing the issue that prompted her to start her own company.</p><p>Jondy said she experienced 30 percent growth in her first year of business,&nbsp; and is projecting 40 percent growth through the end of the year.</p><p>Jondy says she is now making enough money to continue producing new clothing collections for every season. &ldquo;Our goal is to be making much more than what we&rsquo;re making now, but we&rsquo;re self-sustaining and we&rsquo;re profitable,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Fashion is certainly not the only field in which Muslim entrepreneurs are involved. The halal food scene, for instance, has really taken off in the past few years.</p><p>Sameer Sarmast lives in New Jersey, where he blogs and films a Web series about halal restaurants around the country. His popularity in the Muslim community prompted demand for a halal food tour.</p><p>&ldquo;You mention food to anybody, food is a common denominator it will bring people together,&rdquo; Sarmast said.</p><p>Sarmast, who brought his tour to Chicago, this past August, said, &ldquo;The whole idea of halal is growing even beyond the Muslim realm. I feel like it&rsquo;s just going to get bigger and bigger.&rdquo;</p><p>And it does seem to be growing.</p><p>Saffron Road, one particular halal food brand, is now taking the Whole Foods Market chain by storm.<br /><br />Adnan Durrani is CEO of Saffron Road, which produces frozen foods, packaged broths and dry goods. The selling point? His products are halal, organic, and non-GMO.</p><p>Durrani says the initial idea for his company came after the events of 9/11, when he wanted to find a way to focus on the positive aspects of Islam.</p><p>&ldquo;I started thinking of ways to create a business model that was socially responsible, that could reflect the values that I felt were important to me in my faith, and not what I was seeing in the media,&rdquo; Durrani said.</p><p>Just five years ago, he noticed an uptick in the halal food market in Europe.</p><p>&ldquo;Unlike England or France, where the majority of Muslims are below average education level &hellip; in America, the American Muslim demographic was the complete opposite. And that was kind of my wow moment,&rdquo; Durrani explained.</p><p>He said was fascinated by studies that delved into the demographics of the American Muslim market, and what he found amazed him: &ldquo;What I saw was that they were much more educated than the average American. According to Gallup, 67 percent more educated; 80 percent of them are below the age of 40. And so I looked at these statistics and said, &lsquo;Wow, this is really a marketer&rsquo;s dream.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Durrani said his company saw $18 million in retail sales in 2013, and is projecting 100 percent growth this year&mdash;the kind of numbers that are unlikely to go unnoticed by traditional big manufacturers and retailers.</p><p>Durrani said he is confident that as the Muslim population in the U.S. grows, more companies will start to go after their business.</p><p><br /><em>Mariam Sobh is a news anchor and reporter at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/mariamsobh" target="_blank">@mariamsobh</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 11:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/american-muslim-consumer-market-worth-billions-109587 Ramadan 2013 off to a confusing start http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/ramadan-2013-confusing-start-108001 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/NEW MOON.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For Muslims, Ramadan is one of the most important times of the year. It consists of an entire month of fasting and spiritual reflection.</p><p>Muslims abstain from food, drink and sexual relations between sunrise and sunset for 29 or 30 days.</p><p>The start of Ramadan can be hard to define because Muslims use the birth of a new moon to mark the first day of each month.</p><p>Monday night at sunset, some folks sought out the new moon, but didn&rsquo;t see it because according to reports, it was the thinnest crescent moon ever photographed.</p><p>But those who use the Western Lunar Calendar already had their minds made up to start fasting on Tuesday.</p><p>Now add in social media and the confusion intensifies.</p><p>According to Hind Makki, a Chicago-based interfaith educator, many Muslims were poking fun at themselves for not being able to make a decision.</p><p>&ldquo;One of my friends asked on Facebook &lsquo;Are you team Tuesday or team Wednesday?&rsquo; Kind of referencing the whole Twilight &ldquo;Team Jacob&rdquo; or &ldquo;Team Edward.&rdquo;</p><p>Makki said she normally goes by calculations, but changed her mind this year. She decided to stick with what the local mosque in her area was doing so that they could all celebrate together.</p><p>There may be more confusion at the end of the month, when Muslims try to determine when Ramadan ends.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is the midday and weekend news anchor at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/mariamsobh">@mariamsobh</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 09 Jul 2013 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/ramadan-2013-confusing-start-108001 For some, Boston news coverage highlights need for Muslims in the media http://www.wbez.org/news/some-boston-news-coverage-highlights-need-muslims-media-106753 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP65997749651.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As details continue to emerge about the two brothers suspected of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon on Monday, many American Muslims are processing the treatment that this story has gotten in the mainstream news media. The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia, but little is still known about their motives or other affiliations.</p><p>Even before the suspects were identified, news shows and commentary programs on outlets such as Fox News, CNN and Glenn Beck speculated that the perpetrator of the attack was Saudi, Arab, &ldquo;dark-skinned,&rdquo; or Muslim. Fox News pundit Erik Rush provoked particular outcry when he tweeted &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s kill them all,&rdquo; in response to a message about Muslims &mdash;a tweet that he later said was sarcastic.</p><p>&ldquo;[The] Islamophobia machine is out there, it&rsquo;s well-funded, well-oiled,&rdquo; said Abdul Malik Mujahid, a Chicago-area imam and founder of SoundVision, an Islamic educational media organization. &ldquo;Muslims have a responsibility to move forward and use the media which they have the freedom to use to say their opinion.&rdquo;</p><p>Mujahid said the coverage has bolstered his belief that Muslims need to play a bigger role in crafting media coverage, whether by creating their own media outlets or by joining the newsrooms of existing ones. It&rsquo;s a battle that Mujahid began nearly ten years ago, with the launching of Radio Islam, a daily, current affairs program that streams online and at 6 p.m. nightly on WCEV 1450AM.</p><p>A recent show focused on Muslims who were at the Boston Marathon as runners or as first responders. Mujahid said the idea is to counter <a href="http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/Public-Remains-Conflicted-Over-Islam.aspx" target="_blank">a trend toward unfavorable attitudes toward Muslims.</a></p><p>&ldquo;Despite the fact that Muslims have done a lot of effort to reach out to their neighbors, [perceptions of] Muslims and Islam in America continue to go on the negative side,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In the wake of the Boston coverage, Mujahid has stepped up a call for donations to expand Radio Islam&rsquo;s programming. He wants to build a new studio downtown to increase the amount of programming, as well as foster the training of Muslim journalists.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve made this switch from more of a victim mentality, more of this idea of please don&rsquo;t beat me up, and kind of scared and not knowing what to expect, as opposed to now taking a more confident and proactive position,&rdquo; said Asma Uddin, an attorney at the Becket Foundation for Religious Liberty and the founder of Altmuslimah, a blog about gender and Islam.</p><p>Uddin said since 9/11, more Muslims have started to think like Mujahid, focusing on how to disseminate their stories through the media. She said she saw the effect of that in the media coverage of the Boston bombings. Although some news outlets rushed to connect the attack to Islam, she said many more were careful not to jump to conclusions.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s become increasingly sophisticated, and part of that, is because Muslims are speaking up and nuancing people&rsquo;s perceptions,&rdquo; Mujahid said.</p><p>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her at <a href="http://twitter.com/oyousef" target="_blank">@oyousef </a>and @<a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">WBEZoutloud</a>.</p></p> Fri, 19 Apr 2013 20:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/some-boston-news-coverage-highlights-need-muslims-media-106753 Forget Poles: Palestinians find a home in suburban Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/forget-poles-palestinians-find-home-suburban-chicago-105416 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Laila%20Grape%20Vine%20small.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Laila Maali has owned Grape Vine in Orland Park for nine years. Maali, who is part of the region's large Palestinian diaspora, has lived in the U.S. for 26 years. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" /></div><p>Chicagoans are fond of saying that there are more Poles here than anywhere outside of Poland. But ask about Palestinians and you may get a blank stare. As it turns out, there are likely more Palestinian immigrants living in the Chicagoland area than anywhere else in the U.S.<br /><br />The nexus of Arab American life in the Chicago region is the city&rsquo;s Southwest suburbs. Bridgeview, the oldest and most established of the area&rsquo;s Muslim community, is seen as the hub, but the community also extends to neighboring towns like Oak Lawn and Orland Park.<br /><br />When listeners learned that reporter Michael Puente and I planned to visit Orland Park this week, they asked us to look into the town&rsquo;s diverse population. &ldquo;I work out in Orland and I&#39;d be interested to hear you address the large Arabic populations here,&rdquo; listener Eric Olsen told us. &ldquo;Where are they from?&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>Lunch in Little Beitunia (or Big Beitunia, as the case may be)</strong><br /><br />We started our research with a visit to <a href="http://grapevine-orlandpark.com/">Grape Vine</a>, a small storefront grocery and bakery on John Humphrey Drive. It was lunchtime, and the sun filtered in onto shelves lined with pita bread and pickled cucumbers, red lentils and Royal World Tea, bags of rice and jars of butter ghee. Aluminum trays of savory pastries and stout, cigar-shaped falafel sat on the counter. Grape Vine&rsquo;s owner, Laila Maali, stood behind the cash register in a navy blue blouse and loosely draped black hijab, rattling off phone orders from catering customers in a quick mix of Arabic and English.<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lunch%20Grape%20Vine%20small.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="The Grape Vine in Orland Park carries a variety of middle eastern groceries -- pita bread, red lentils, butter ghee, pickled cucumbers -- as well as some pretty tasty falafel! (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" />While we chatted with Maali, Edward Hassan walked inside. Hassan was smartly dressed in leather gloves and a wool overcoat, and told us that he owned seven strip malls in the area, including the one we were in. The vanity plates on his white Mercedes Benz read LND LRD.<br /><br />Both Maali and Hassan immigrated to the U.S. from Beitunia (sometimes spelled Baytunya), a town roughly eight miles outside Ramallah in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. Maali said she has lived in the Chicago area for 26 years, while Hassan said he came to the U.S. as a child with his parents 50 years ago, first settling in Chicago at 63rd and Halsted then moving to the suburbs.<br /><br />It was Hassan who first tipped us off to the sheer number of Palestinians living southwest of Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;There are 23,000 people living here from Beitunia,&rdquo; he told us, much to our surprise. &ldquo;And only 2,000 back in Beitunia.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>How many people of Palestinian descent actually live in the region?</strong><br /><br />The truth is more complicated, but surprising nonetheless. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there were closer to 20,000 people living in Beitunia as of 2007. But sociologist <a href="http://www.marquette.edu/socs/cainkar.shtml">Louise Cainkar</a>, a professor at Marquette University and an expert on Arab immigration, backs up the underlying thrust of Hassan&rsquo;s claim.</p><p>&ldquo;Historically Beitunia was the largest feeder village [of Palestinian immigrants] to Chicago,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Cainkar has spent time in Beitunia and has seen the results of this relationship.</p><p>&ldquo;[The village]used to be characterized by agriculture, but is now quite built up,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Cainkar says the investment from money made in the U.S. and sent back to the village in the form of remittances is visible.<br /><br />Cainkar estimates that as many as a quarter of all Palestinians living in the U.S. live in the counties surrounding Chicago &mdash; more than live any other American city. And, Palestinians make up the single largest Arab ethnic group in the Chicago region, according to Cainkar &mdash; as much as 40 percent of the area&rsquo;s total Arab population. &nbsp;<br /><br />It&rsquo;s actually quite difficult, though, to measure exactly how many people of Palestinian descent live in the Chicago area. And it&rsquo;s hard to know how many people of Arab descent there are in the country as a whole. Nationally, the 2010 U.S. Census found that about 1.9 million Americans are of Arab descent, although groups like the Arab American Institute estimate that the number could be much larger, as high as 5.1 million people. It&rsquo;s a similar story in Illinois; the Census found about 85,000 people of Arab descent living in the state, but again, the AAI thinks the number is much higher, closer to 220,000 total.<br /><br />Cainkar thinks the real number of Arab Americans living in the U.S. &mdash; and in Illinois &mdash; is probably somewhere in the middle of those estimates, but agrees that the Census misses a lot of people.</p><p>The short version of the Census &mdash; given to 82 percent of people who take it &mdash; only measures race, and Arabs are supposed to mark themselves down as white. The 18 percent of people who take the longer version of the survey are asked questions about their &ldquo;ancestry.&rdquo; In 2010, of the people who indicated they were of Arab ancestry, five percent described themselves as being of Palestinian descent. But another 11 percent said they were &ldquo;Other, Arab&rdquo; and another 15 percent said they were &ldquo;Arab/Arabic.&rdquo;</p><p>Cainkar&rsquo;s research suggests that many of these respondents are actually Palestinian, too.</p><p>&ldquo;I looked at the Census tracts block by block, based on where people live,&rdquo; she said, adding that many Chicago communities she knows to be Palestinian weren&rsquo;t counted as such.<br /><br />Regardless of the exact number of Arab Americans living in Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest suburbs, their presence is clear, whether in the Prayer Center, the Orland Park mosque with a glowing gold dome and colorful tile walls built in 2004, or the sheer number of businesses that cater to Middle Eastern tastes.</p><p>&ldquo;I counted 100 Arab-owned businesses in less than one square mile between 79th and 87th and Harlem, and that&rsquo;s just a little piece of their commercial enterprises down there,&rdquo; Cainkar said of one portion of the Southwest Side community. &ldquo;That is definitely their hub.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>So why Chicago?</strong><br /><br />What, then, drew Palestinian immigrants and other Arabs to the region to begin with? As is the case with so many elements of Chicago history, Cainkar said the answer lies in the 1893 World&rsquo;s Columbian Exhibition. The fair brought travelers and presenters from all over the globe, including Arab traders who liked the region and found a market here for their goods.<br /><br />That started the first wave of Arab immigration to the U.S., which was followed by many more. And because U.S. immigration policy is focused on family reunification, once a family had one member settled permanently in the U.S., more were likely to follow.<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Prayer%20Center%20Orland%20Park%20small.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="The Prayer Center, a mosque in Orland Park, was built in 2004, as more area Muslims moved to town. (WBEZ/Robin Amer)" />Of course, the answer to why there are nearly as many Palestinians living abroad as there are still living in Palestine &mdash; about 4.5 million &mdash; lies in that region&rsquo;s troubled history. Many left or were forced out starting in 1948 with the creation of the state of Israel, an event many Palestinians refer to as the &ldquo;Nakba&rdquo; or &ldquo;disaster.&rdquo; (At the time, many Jews were also expelled from or chose to leave their homes in neighboring Arab countries.) Subsequent conflicts, like the 1967 war, prompted subsequent waves of immigration.<br /><br />But Cainkar said the biggest wave of Palestinian immigration to the U.S. came in the 1980s and &lsquo;90s. Many who came were not immigrants but students, Cainkar said, earning advanced degrees.</p><p>Many of those same students-turned-engineers, say, went on to live in Persian Gulf states, drawn by the promise of good paying jobs funded with oil boom money. But 350,000 Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait and other Gulf states in 1990 after the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) refused to back foreign intervention as a solution to Iraq&rsquo;s occupation of Kuwait. Cainkar said that for many of these Palestinians, &ldquo;this meant their only other option for survival was the U.S.&rdquo;<br /><br /><strong>Putting down roots</strong><br /><br />Arab Americans have been subjected to much unwanted scrutiny since 9/11 turned &ldquo;Islamic extremism&rdquo; into a household term that fueled fear &mdash; the 2004 struggle over the Prayer Center in Orland Park is certainly evidence of that &mdash; and Palestinians carry with them a particularly painful history of struggle.</p><p>But Cainkar said that as a whole, America&rsquo;s Arab population, including the entrepreneurial Palestinian community in Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest suburbs, is thriving.</p><p>&ldquo;Overall Arab income in the U.S. is higher than the median income of the U.S. as a whole,&rdquo; Cainkar said. &ldquo;Usually groups that face discrimination don&rsquo;t do well in this country, but they&#39;re an exception to this pattern.&rdquo;<br /><br />Back at Grape Vine, property owner Edward Hassan talked not just of his business investments, but of his childhood in Chicago and his service during Vietnam. Hassan said he founded an Arab American veterans group that has over 200 area members, some of whom served in the Korean War.<br /><br />&ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t just get off the boat,&rdquo; he told us. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re American.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 07 Feb 2013 16:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/forget-poles-palestinians-find-home-suburban-chicago-105416 DuPage faith groups watch minaret decision http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-faith-groups-watch-minaret-decision-97223 <p><p>The DuPage County Board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether an incoming mosque may add a minaret and dome to its building plan. MECCA, the Muslim Educational Cultural Center of America, has applied for a conditional use permit to construct a 50-foot high dome and a 60-foot high minaret. The decision is being closely watched by other faith groups in the county, who are keen to see how the board will respond to requests for modifications to projects that were grandfathered in after the county changed its zoning rules. The new rules, passed in October, limit structures to 36 feet.</p><p>Last week DuPage County’s Development Committee voted neither to approve nor deny the request of MECCA’s developers, splitting evenly on the matter. Complicating the situation is the fact that MECCA is considered an “existing use” because its zoning permit was approved last year before the zoning amendments. Ground has not yet been broken on the project. County Board member Anthony Michelassi said that means MECCA’s application has to be evaluated under zoning rules that existed when it was granted its original permit.</p><p>“If we were to say to any existing religious institution, you can’t put, say, a steeple on top of your building because then you’d have to start lopping off parts of your building elsewhere,” said Michelassi. “That would go completely against the spirit of the text amendments to begin with.”</p><p>Several residents of a housing development next to the MECCA property in unincorporated Willowbrook spoke at the committee meeting to express their opposition to the minaret and dome. Diana Cornett, who lives in the property closest to the site, said she and her neighbors have compromised on their ideals to come to peace with the idea of a large assembly space going up next to their relatively quiet and secluded homes. She said that adding the tall structures would be an even greater imposition on her suburban surroundings.</p><p>“It’s just seeing that much more of a building that we really don’t want to see anymore of,” said Cornett. “And it would be the same if Wal-Mart wanted to build a building and they wanted to add another whole story to it.”</p></p> Tue, 13 Mar 2012 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/dupage-faith-groups-watch-minaret-decision-97223 McCarthy publicly reassures Muslims http://www.wbez.org/story/mccarthy-publicly-reassures-muslims-96948 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-March/2012-03-05/Garry McCarthy AP Paul Beaty.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy addressed Chicago-area Muslims over the weekend for the first time since they learned that police conducted blanket surveillance of Muslims in Newark, N.J. while he was police director there.</p><p>Last week McCarthy met privately with Muslim civil rights leaders to allay their concerns on the issue. On Saturday at the annual fundraising banquet for the Chicago office of the Council on American Islamic Relations, McCarthy spoke to a much broader audience of hundreds of local Muslim-Americans.</p><p>“The Chicago Police Department does not, and will not, conduct blanket surveillance or profiling of any community in the City of Chicago,” said McCarthy.</p><p>He acknowledged that the recent revelation of the spying operation created a challenge for him in his new post.</p><p>“I’d like to make it very clear that I’m a big believer in communication and transparency,” he said, “and sometimes growing out of crisis, there’s an opportunity, and I believe that that’s the case here.”</p><p>McCarthy is the first Chicago Police Superintendent to have attended a CAIR-Chicago annual banquet, according to CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab. Rehab said even if McCarthy knew of the spying effort in Newark, he believes that McCarthy did not intend to target Muslims maliciously. He said he’s also hopeful McCarthy’s promise to build positive relations between police and Muslims in Chicago is sincere.</p><p>“Look, time will tell,” said Rehab. “Politicians make promises, leaders claim things - as do our leaders in our community.”</p></p> Sun, 04 Mar 2012 06:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/mccarthy-publicly-reassures-muslims-96948 Chicago Muslims reassured after meeting McCarthy http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-muslims-reassured-after-meeting-mccarthy-96824 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-23/RS3878_Garry McCarthy Police Dept Superintendant.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Less than one week after sending a letter to Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, a Muslim rights advocate organization says it has been reassured that Chicago police will not undertake blanket surveillance of the city’s Muslim population.</p><p>The Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations addressed the letter to McCarthy after learning that while McCarthy was police director in Newark, N.J., he knew of a wide-ranging surveillance operation that the New York Police Department undertook to monitor Muslims in Newark. The 2007 surveillance operation, which NYPD characterized as a “joint operation” with the Newark Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, resulted in a 60-page report about where Muslims in Newark lived, socialized, and prayed.</p><p>McCarthy has distanced himself from the operation. On Tuesday morning, McCarthy met with individuals from CAIR-Chicago and from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, to respond to their concerns.</p><p>“We sought and received reassurances that such a program would not be carried out in Chicago and that the superintendent stood against community profiling and blanket investigations,” said CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab.</p><p>Rehab said he has no reason to believe that McCarthy, who was appointed to head Chicago’s police department by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, harbors any anti-Muslim sentiment.</p><p>“We’re hoping that this marks a new page for Muslim-police relations, in which we move forward,” said Rehab. “There’s two sides to the same coin: safety and civil rights, there can be a balance achieved between both, and there will be.”</p></p> Wed, 29 Feb 2012 14:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-muslims-reassured-after-meeting-mccarthy-96824 After 9/11, Chicago FBI tries to improve its image within Muslim community http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-09/after-911-chicago-fbi-tries-improve-its-image-within-muslim-community-91 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-09/AP061208019796.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Today, we’re looking at how 9/11 transformed Muslim-Americans around the country and in Chicago.</p><p>In a previous segment, we talked to a lawyer who defended the Global Relief Foundation, a local Islamic charity shuttered by the federal government shortly after the attacks. The group was never convicted of any wrongdoing. Incidents like this did nothing to endear the government to American Muslims. To build relationships and trust, the<a href="http://www.fbi.gov/chicago"> FBI office in Chicago</a> has made a concerted effort to reach out to the local Muslim community.</p><p>For a progress report, WBEZ’s criminal justice reporter, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/staff/robert-wildeboer">Robert Wildeboer</a>, sat down with Robert Grant, who heads the FBI’s Chicago field office. They began with the controversy surrounding the government’s decision to close two Islamic charities in Chicago.</p></p> Fri, 09 Sep 2011 17:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-09/after-911-chicago-fbi-tries-improve-its-image-within-muslim-community-91 Worldview 9.9.11 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-9911 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/episode/images/2011-september/2011-09-09/rabih.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For the tenth anniversary of 9/11, <em>Worldview</em> explores the terror attack's impact on Chicago’s Muslim community. We’ll speak with an attorney for Rabih Haddad's Global Relief Foundation, one of two local Muslim charities shuttered by the federal government shortly after the attacks. WBEZ criminal justice reporter Robert Wildeboer talks to Robert Grant, the head of the FBI’s Chicago office, about the agency's efforts to gain the trust of the city's Islamic community. Local imam Abdul Malik Mujahid gives us his take on the federal government's Muslim-American outreach. And WBEZ's North Side Bureau reporter Odette Yousef finds out how one suburban Muslim school teaches 9/11 to its students.</p></p> Fri, 09 Sep 2011 14:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode/worldview-9911