Wednesday, February 24, 2016

You’d think Arabs pulling off takeover, rather than just sharing in Chicago

I have to admit that the big difference between the Chicago I knew as a kid some four to five decades ago and the one that exists now is the presence of Arabs and, in some cases, Islam.

It doesn’t phase me anymore to see a woman walking down the aisle of the supermarket while wearing a hijab, particularly if she has a slew of kids trailing her whom she’s trying to keep from running roughshod all over the store.

JUST ABOUT LIKE any other mother who happens to include grocery shopping among her day’s errands.

And I also know enough that not every single Arab is Muslim – there are those whose families at some point in time figured that assimilation to a new country included a religious conversion. Besides, most Arabs I have known had their families come to this country to get away from the very same religious fanatics many of us express fear about.
Considering that I always viewed the Chicago area’s great strength as being its multi-ethnic mix of people, I can’t help but think of Arabs as just another ethnic group – and one whose cuisine definitely enhances the style of edibles we are exposed to.

Unless you’re the type of person who thinks Chinese orange chicken or Taco Bell is the extent to which you wish to be exposed to anything "foreign?"

THE SAD THING is that probably is the mentality of some people whose criticism is shouted out so loud that we presume they’re a majority. They’re the ones most likely who keep giving Donald Trump poll leads in his multiple candidate presidential campaigns – even though all the other candidates put together dwarf him.

That’s the thought we ought to remind ourselves of when we consider the latest dispute in suburban Palos Park (the community that feels like it was built out in the middle of the forest preserves) that someone wants to develop a mosque there.

The Muslim American Society bought a property that once was a First Church of Christ Scientist, but had literally been sold off. As in that church didn’t want the property any longer. Nobody forced them out.

Yet there are those who want to think that this is somehow evidence that Muslims are desecrating a Christian church and using it for their own nefarious purposes.

THE SAD PART is that this issue isn’t new. It isn’t just the crackpots being inspired by Donald Trump’s “stupid talk” about Muslims and Arabs not belonging in this country.

I remember back nearly a couple decades ago when officials wanted to build a new structure in nearly Palos Heights to provide a mosque for the growing Arab population in the southwest suburbs – only to have the issue burst into a bigoted mess.

To his credit, then-Mayor Dean Koldenhaven thwarted an effort to use tax dollars to buy out the would-be mosque developers, believing it to be motivated purely by religious prejudice. Of course, he wound up losing his re-election bid, and there are those local residents who remain convinced they did the right thing by doing so.

Such sentiments continue to exist whenever someone brings up the concept of a mosque. Some sentiments just can’t wither away, no matter how stupid.

FROM A PERSONAL perspective, perhaps this is an evolution – since it would seem that Islam is now the exotic faith that scares people, not Catholicism. Although Trump’s willingness to smack about Pope Francis makes me wonder if he wouldn’t mind anti-Catholic sentiment raising its ugly head to bolster his presidential fantasies.

And as someone of Mexican ethnic origins who also has been included as subject matter for Trump tirades, it would seem that the nativists of our society are truly willing to extend their net of hostility towards anybody they can snag.

So as for the ongoing fight over developing a mosque in Palos Park, the details are all so similar that the entire battle seems so predictable. And boring to hear about.

You’d think the xenophobes of our society would come up with something new just to keep themselves intrigued. Although I suppose so long as spewing the same nativist nonsense works time and time again, they’ll keep spewing. Until we, the true majority of our society, come to our senses and stop giving such people any mind.


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