Political candidates join local Arab leaders for Iftar
Arab Chamber leaders Radi Abuhashish and Hassan Nijem host Iftar attended by three of Chicago’s leading candidates for Chicago Mayor Ald. Raymond Lopez, Dr. Willie Wilson, and Paul Vallas, and also State Rep. Cyril Nichols who sponsored legislation to designate Arabs a “Minority” to gain improved access to State Contracts, and Ald. Gilbert Villegas who is a candidate for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District
By Ray Hanania
Three of the city’s top candidates for mayor, a candidate for Congress and a legislator who is pushing for the adoption of a law to recognize the rights of Arab businessmen to receive state and county contracts participated at an Iftar hosted by members of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.
The Iftar, hosted at the Chicago home of Radi Abuhashish on Thursday, showcased mayoral candidates Dr. Willie Wilson, Ald, Raymond Lopez and Paul Vallas.
Joining in breaking the Ramadan fast was also Ald. Gilbert Villegas, who with Lopez, is organizing a public forum to investigate Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s closing of more than 150 Arab owned businesses last summer.
That public forum to examine Lightfoot’s discriminatory targeting of Arab business owners will be held on Monday, May 9 at the Islamic Community Center of Illinois (ICCI), 6435 W Belmont Ave, beginning at 11 AM.
And, a special presentation was made to Illinois State Rep. Cyril Nichols who is introducing a law to recognize Arab Americans as a “minority” to allow them to qualify for state contract preferences or “Set-Asides” giving them equal footing with other racial and ethnic groups that enjoy that special contract award privilege.
“I was honored to greet various politicians and candidates representing the great city of Chicago and Cook County in my home,” Abuhashish, a Chicagoland businessman and a member of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, said.
“Every person in attendance made it a special and successful event. My goal was to connect the Middle Eastern community with our mainstream politicians on an intimate level. Inviting them to my home made it a much more special occasion for everyone involved. Our representatives and public servants were able to interact with my community on a personal level, and I am grateful for that.”
The Iftar was hosted in a large tent to accommodate the attendees and the special guests who enjoyed traditional Arab foods.
Chamber President Hassan Nijem and Abuhashish presented Nichols with a letter of support for introducing the legislation which would add “Arab” to the list of Minority Business Enterprises and Minority Business Women that includes African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders, and Women.
“The legislation allows Arab business owners to qualify for the contract set-asides which are intended to help minority groups that are often marginalized in the contract process,” said Nichols, who was appointed to represent the 32nd District in April 2021.
Under the state program, which exists in Illinois and many other states, up to 20 percent of state contracts must be made available to minorities on the state list.
“The law gives Arab American businesses the opportunity to win contracts worth billions every year that they might not able to receive without the state’s recognition,” Nijem explained.
Villegas is running as a candidate in the June 28 Democratic primary election to represent the 3rd Congressional District. Nichols is also seeking the Democratic Party nomination for election in the June 28 election.
Lopez, Wilson and Vallas will run in the non-partisan mayoral election that will be held in February 2023 challenging beleaguered and controversy-plague Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“Arab Americans are an important constituency and should be treated like everyone else with the same rights, same opportunities and same respect,” Lopez said.