Congressman’s Apology to Muslims

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By James Warren

Mike Quigley knows about cheap shots on ice. Now he’s an expert on being blindsided on the Internet and cable TV.

Quigley_Headshot

Congressman Mike Quigley, (D-5th-IL)

Mr. Quigley, a Democratic Chicago congressman, had a relatively light Saturday recently. He played ice hockey in the morning, did a beach cleanup with the Sierra Club and hit four block parties in the 32nd, 43rd and 44th Wards. Along the way he surfaced at a conference held by the American Islamic College. It was a quick in-and-out, with remarks to perhaps 100 attendees about the strengths of American pluralism, the sort he makes to many groups. They included:

“Forms of discrimination come in many forms, many shapes and many guises. You have my pledge to work with you to fight them, and I think that it is appropriate for me to apologize on behalf of this country for the discrimination you face.”

He then bicycled to the first block party. The Islamic College audience was apparently grateful but didn’t find his appearance especially notable as they returned to the business of their meeting.

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, found the address nice and patriotic. “What we’d expect of a congressman,” he said.

Neither he, Mr. Quigley nor anybody else there was prepared for the response initiated in the conservative blogosphere, then intensified on radio and TV.

The congressman was attacked harshly, with at least one death threat on a Fox News site that by week’s end was still not taken down despite requests.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative activist, blogged that Mr. Quigley made a “surprise appearance”  before “the primarily Muslim audience. He rambled on about the typical racism and discrimination that the liberal left is so convinced America is rampantly infected with.”

The appearance was not a surprise, even if not on the formal program.

But the nefarious implication was repeated on blogs and the Fox News Channel. Video links included the lines above but not related comments about the legacies of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.

Social media posts and hundreds of nasty calls, e-mails and faxes poured in to his offices, which deleted profane and violent posts and passed direct threats to law enforcement.

But the conservative echo chamber was in high dudgeon. Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host, decided that Mr. Quigley’s remarks were a story and thus conferred high-profile legitimacy to the bloggers’ vituperation on Tuesday. Mr. Quigley could not appear, but Mr. Rehab did, initially nonplused that the remarks were deemed newsworthy.

With “Questionable Apology” emblazoned on the screen, Mr. O’Reilly repeated the same two sentences Mr. Quigley had uttered and declared:

“Wow! What discrimination?”  Statistics don’t support claims of bias against Muslim Americans, he said.

Much data and polling contradicts him. As an unabashed Mr. Rehab told him, “You’d have to be living under a rock” to miss the overarching reality.

Mr. Rehab cited federal figures on rising workplace complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination and polls showing both that 39 percent of Americans would require Muslims to carry special identification and that one-third don’t think Muslims should be allowed to run for president.

“O.K., those stats bolster your argument,” Mr. O’Reilly conceded. “But in economic realms, Muslim Americans are doing well, pretty well,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to be anti-Muslim. Thank you for coming on here,” Mr. O’Reilly concluded brusquely, with Mr. Rehab having clearly failed to fulfill a role of self-righteous liberal piñata.

But Fox wasn’t done.

On Wednesday, its morning “Fox and Friends” show saw Mr. Quigley, 52, called a “silly old fool” by Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and advocate of aggressive military actions. He belittled Muslims with a series of mock apologies like “We should apologize for preventing them from beating their daughters to death for flirting.”

Eboo Patel, an Indian-born Muslim and former Rhodes Scholar who runs the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Corps, found the response offensive.

But he noted a Gallup poll finding that American Muslims remain very optimistic despite facing discrimination.

He mentioned that his nephew in Houston was hassled when, for religious reasons, he wouldn’t eat school pizza with pork.

Well, at least we occasionally try to curb school bullies. We clearly don’t when it comes to the bullies who can drive our public dialogue.

jwarren@chicagonewscoop.org

James Warren writes a column for the Chicago News Cooperative.

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Community News (V10-I39)

September 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Chicago interfaith Iftar

CHICAGO,IL–Chicago area Muslims and Christians gathered at the Islamic Foundation Mosque recently for an interfaith iftar. It was part of an ongoing effort  between the two communities relations between the two communities. More than fifty people came for the event.

Similar events are being held throughout the Chicago area.

“Had it not been for interfaith relations in the Chicago area, the aftermath of 9/11 would have been very different,” said Ghulam Haider Aasi, professor of Islamic studies at American Islamic College in Chicago in an interview to the Daily Herald. “Muslims of Chicago fortunately did not see as bad a situation (of backlash) as people in other parts of the country.”

Leaders emphasized commonalities between the faith traditions and the significance of building fellowship through the fast-breaking ritual.

“What I think is valuable about this is two communities build personal relationships first in the context of which they are then able to discuss the larger issues between them,” said the Rev. Thomas Baima, Provost at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary.

Heitage Hills Mosque plans not approved

GRAND RAPIDS,MI–Heritage Hill residents convinced city planners to reject an Islamic community’s request to convert a former school building into a mosque.
The city’s Planning Commission voted 8-0 against the request by the Masjid Muhammad Islamic Center.

Mosque officials said the daily prayers would attract only a handful of worshippers, while other gatherings rarely would draw more than 50 people.

But neighbors complained that the property has only seven spaces, with three spaces available on the street which will lead to problems.

The Masjid Muhammad Islamic Center has been looking for a permanent home for five years, since a mosque along South Division Avenue was destroyed by fire.

Bus ads spread the message

SEATTLE,WA– Adopting an innovative approach to Dawah, activists in Seattle area have turned to public transit buses. The paid advertisements on the Metro buses simply read:  “Q: Islam. A: You deserve to know,” with a phone number and Web site.

They have been designed to spark curiosity about the most misunderstood religion. The idea was initiated by the Islamic Circle of North America and now ads are displayed on the outside of six metro buses and the inside of about 25. The cost of $5,000 was contributed by ten local Muslims.

Buses in New York and Chicago will also display the advertisements soon.

Memphis Muslim clinic reaches out

MEMPHIS,TN– As the number of uninsured grows in America, Muslim doctors are doing their part to help their fellow citizens and lighten the burden.

The Memphis Muslim Medical Clinic in East Memhis has been serving the uninsured patients for the past two and a half years. With a volunteer base of 100 Muslim doctors have served over 2,000 patients who pay as little as $5 per visit.

Housed on the property of  Masjid As-Salaam the clinic is run by five directors all of whom are on the staff of University of Tennessee.

Open on weekends, the clinic has a $100,000 annual budget, which is funded through private donors, many of whom make direct monthly deposits.

Work at Boonton mosque stopped

BOONTON, NJ–More than two years after the expansion of the Jam e Masjid Islamic Center was approved by the planning board, progress on the controversial proposal has hit a snag, the Daily Record reported.

The town issued a stop-work order in early August on construction of the multi-story 4,000-square-foot expansion to the Harrison Street mosque, after a resident noticed the work on the façade did not conform to the site plan approval of March 2006.

Work on the expansion began several months ago by Perth Amboy-based Troop Construction, mosque officials said.

An amendment to the application—revisited by the planning board on Wednesday night–was denied in a vote of 5-2 following testimony from representatives of the mosque on the site plan changes and protests from several residents who oppose the changes.

Board members Richard Orlusky and Douglas Phelps approved the amended plan.

Roy Kurnos, the mosque’s attorney, said he will meet this weekend with mosque officials and architect David Singer to revise the amended plan, re-file and present it to the board again.

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