Thousands of Muslims gathered at Toyota Park in suburban Chicagoland to celebrate the Eid al -Udha, Feast of the Sacrifice and listened as statewide leaders denounced anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racism by presidential candidates including Donald Trump and Ben Carson
By Ray Hanania
Bridgeview, Illinois – More than 14,000 Muslims at a suburban Chicago stadium Thursday Sept. 24 cheered Illinois government and community leaders who denounced Republican Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson and others who assert a Muslim should not become president of the United States.
Although the focus of the event was to commemorate the annual Muslim celebration of Eid al-Udha, the gathering took on a greater meaning in the wake of Carson’s widely reported comments which were made as Muslims throughout America were preparing to celebrate one of their most important religious holidays.
During an appearance on NBC TV’s Meet the Press on Sept. 20, 2015, Carson told host Chuck Todd during a discussion about Trump and whether the president’s faith should matter, Carson said, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
But Illinois officials rejected Carson’s claims.
“The history of Illinois is one of coming to terms with ethnic and religious differences. Our future relies on a similar commitment to protecting and honoring religious freedom,” Illinois Senate President John Cullerton told the cheering crowd at Toyota Park stadium in a suburb of Chicago.
“As you well know, threats exist. Too often religion is inserted into our government and our politics as a vehicle for narrow-mindedness, or worse, hate. Too many still cling to ignorance and intolerance in a doomed effort to prevent change. For whether Donald Trump or Ben Carson like it or not, change happens.”
Cullerton ended his comments by offering words of praise to Muslim Americans and the Muslim holiday greeting in Arabic, “Eid Mubarak.”
Eid Al-Udha marks the Biblical event in which God directed the Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son, but spared the son and ordered the sacrifice of a lamb instead. It is a Biblical event that is the cornerstone of the faith of Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Mosque Foundation President Hussein Ata joined Oussama Jammal, the Secretary General of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations in Washington D.C., in welcoming Fullerton Jammal said the nation’s estimated 7 million Muslims should take their dissatisfaction with intolerant comments byCarson, Donald Trump and others to the voting booth in the upcoming election season.
“The strongest message we can send to Dr. Carson and Mr. Trump is to go and register to vote. It is to cast our vote for representatives and to a president who will bring Americans together, who will unite us and who will make this country better to serve humanity to recognize the injustices around the world and come and seek the support of those who have been wrongly killed, wrongly treated and wrongly forced to leave their countries,” Jammal told the cheering gathering.
“We can come together and cast our vote to change our foreign policy to make this country a more friendly country in the world.”
Illinois’ presidential election primaries will be held in less than six months on March 15, 2016.
Jesus Garcia, a Democratic Cook County Commissioner who unsuccessfully challenged Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in last April’s Chicago mayoral election contest, described anti-Muslim sentiment in American politics as frightening.
“Diversity is what gives us a true sense of freedom. Even when people are ignorant, even when people have stereotypes and speaking badly of the Muslim community, Americans know better,” Garcia said.
“I honestly believe that among the young boys and girls who are gathered with us today of Muslim descent and faith could become the next president of the United States of America.”
State Senator Steven Landek and Mayor of Bridgeview, where the event was held, said that despite what seems like a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry, that more and more Americans are seeing past the discrimination and embracing equality.
“What Dr. Carson did was spark a debate that is encouraging more and more American to stand up for civil rights, and to speak out against all forms of discrimination including against Muslims and Arabs in America,” Landek said.
“Although the words from Dr. Carson are divisive, we are seeing many Americans in leadership, in government and in the public are repudiating that kind of discrimination.”
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, State Senator Steven Landek, County Commissioner Jesus Garcia with the packed stadium behind them.
U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations Secretary General Oussama Jammal speaks to the gathering from the outdoor podium, introducing Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, State Senator Steven Landek, County Commissioner Jesus Garcia with the American and Illinois flags waiving in the backdrop.
Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia, Mosque Foundation President Hussein Ata, State Senator Steven Landek, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, and U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations Secretary General Oussama Jammal just before addressing the Eid gathering