Saturday, December 4, 2010

Erecting the “Keep Out!” signs: Do we mean the Asian Carp? Or the Muslims?

A U.S. District Court judge issued a ruling this week that has the Asian Carp fanatics all upset.

By “fanatics,” I’m referring to the people from surrounding Midwestern states who have been filing lawsuits against Chicago-area officials, contending that if the dreaded species of fish that has the potential to devastate the ecosystem and kill off existing life in the Great Lakes actually makes it there, it will be Chicago’s fault.

THESE PEOPLE, FROM places such as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and (most intensely, Michigan) want the shipping locks in the Chicago-area closed down. They have been engaging in a campaign that seems to want to blame Chicago for the presence of Asian Carp in the area, and any damage that may be caused.

Those locks are what allow for a direct connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. It is Chicago’s location on the lake at the end of that system that largely accounts for why Chicago is CHICAGO, and not merely Milwaukee, Detroit or Pittsburgh.

Because the Asian Carp have managed to get into the Mississippi River, then detoured into the Illinois River, it is likely that they could someday get into Lake Michigan, then flow into all of the Great Lakes.

That is why critics are now denouncing the fact that Chicago altered the flow of the Chicago River away from Lake Michigan. In doing so, engineers also set up the system that allows a boat carrying goods to get from the lake to the Illinois River, then down to the “Mighty Mississippi.”

I WILL BE the first to admit that if the Asian Carp get into the Great Lakes, it will significantly alter environmental conditions, and not in a good way. But federal Judge Robert Dow this week ruled against ordering the locks. While he agreed the Asian Carp are dangerous, he also said there is no evidence that the species of fish are on the verge of entering the Great Lakes.

In short, he’s not going to devastate the Chicago economy just because of a problem that could occur if the Army Corps of Engineers winds up being unsuccessful in the various methods they have been using in recent years to keep the Asian Carp away from Lake Michigan.

The ruling shows some common sense – not wanting to make changes just because someone perceives a problem in the making. Now if we could only have the same line of logic applied out in west suburban DuPage County, where officials are considering proposals to allow religious groups to construct new buildings for use as mosques.

It means we’re talking about people of Muslim religious faiths. Which means that the local political types are putting them through intense scrutiny.

EARLIER THIS WEEK, a county zoning board of appeals recommended against allowing a mosque to be built in an unincorporated area near West Chicago.

Officially, they’re saying the well water system and septic tanks set up for that area could not handle the demands placed upon it by a new church-type building.

 In theory, that means the Islamic Center for Western Suburbs could still get approved when the full DuPage County Board considers the issue when they meet some time in January. The full board could elect to ignore that recommendation (which came by a 6-1 vote).

Yet my experience in dealing with these suburban government panels is that these zoning boards are the ones that do something resembling a detailed study of the issue. Most of the actual county board members are going to be inclined to trust the recommendation and affirm it – which would mean killing off this mosque proposal near West Chicago.

NOW I’M SURE that county officials will limit their rhetoric on the issue to claims that the building would mess with the septic and well systems. They’re going to claim that their own religious beliefs aren’t a factor in this issue.

Which means they will have learned from past municipalities that have considered (and rejected) proposals for mosque construction. Many of those towns (remember Palos Heights?) came off looking shallow and bigoted by letting their ignorance of Islam run amok.

But I also don’t doubt that a desire to keep their community just as it is, and resist the growing Muslim population developing in the southwest and western suburbs of Chicago is a factor.

I couldn’t help but notice that one of the measures also being considered by that same zoning board is one that would restrict any new religious building construction in DuPage County to unincorporated areas that do not have residential developments. More discussion on that issue will come at a hearing scheduled for Dec. 13.

IT SOUNDS LIKE putting any new mosques that manage to work their way into the area out in the middle of nowhere, in areas that aren’t exactly convenient to worshipers. There won’t be Muslims walking from their homes to their mosques for religious services in the way that some Christians attend church services right in their neighborhoods.

This situation reeks of people who see a “problem” developing in the growth of another religion within our society, and they’re trying to erect the barricades to prevent it from gaining a foothold.

It’s too bad we couldn’t have a “Judge Dow” type come in and tell these people that there is NO imminent problem to be dealt with. It’s really too bad that we couldn’t have common sense prevail and people realize there probably isn’t any problem developing at all – unless the government bureaucratic-types start putting up all kinds of regulations that cause the problem.


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