Candidates for mayor of Chicago pledge to reinstate the role of Arab Americans in city affairs
Candidates for mayor of Chicago pledge to reinstate the role of Arab Americans in city affairs

CHICAGO: Several candidates for mayor of Chicago have vowed to restore the role and participation of the Arab American community in city affairs and to restart Arab cultural programs and organizations that had to be shut down under previous mayors. But this was not done. Current mayor, Lori Lightfoot.

Several of the candidates running for election on February 28 spoke to an audience of more than 450 people at a candidates' forum and brunch at Bridgeview on Sunday, hosted by the Arab American Democratic Club, the largest Arab American political organization in the Midwest Was.

 He pledged to end Lightfoot's "discriminatory practices" and said that restoring the role of Arab Americans was a requirement of good governance.

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Willie Wilson, an African American, said that "no one should be discriminated against on the basis of their race or their religion."

“If I am elected mayor of Chicago, we will not close any business, including Arab businesses. We support diversity. In our opinion, every resident of the City of Chicago should be represented there. Every organization, in our opinion , should represent the people of Chicago. In order to make this city better, we need to include everyone.

One of Lightfoot's campaign promises when she was elected in 2019 was to protect Arab rights that Rahm Emanuel had undermined. His father belonged to the Israeli paramilitary Irgun group, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the British Mandate government in 1947.

Emanuel's actions played a part in the cancellation of the annual Arabesque Festival after he was elected mayor of Chicago. His administration withdrew the city's support for the event after Jewish activists complained that the Palestinian flag was displayed alongside other flags of the Arab world.

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He also discouraged Arab participation in city commissions and events, and disbanded the Arab Advisory Council, which addressed claims of anti-Arab bias.

When Emanuel, who is currently the US ambassador to Japan, stepped down as mayor in 2019, Lightfoot, a former prosecutor who highlighted his minority status as an African American and a lesbian, was elected to replace him. Selected for Lightfoot also pledged to support Arab Americans. But after taking office, she came under fire for allegedly focusing heavily on Arab-owned small businesses in an effort to rein in the city's rising gun violence. Businesses owned by more than 100 billion were closed.

Wilson, a successful Chicago businessman, promised to "include Arab Americans" in his government. It doesn't matter what color you are, we will still support you, he said. This problem affects people of all races, including blacks, browns, whites, Arab Americans, Latinos, and others.

"This is our city, and we must all accept it together ... Without a doubt, I am one of you." Paul Vallas, formerly CEO of the Chicago public school system and director of Chicago's budget, He was one of the candidates to echo this call for Arab activism in Chicago.

When I am elected mayor, I will restore the Arab Advisory Council, Vallas said. "Why discuss it? It will be fixed. The Advisory Council will have the authority to make suggestions. We will provide resources to the Arab Advisory Council so that they can evaluate and suggest programs.

“We will collaborate with the neighborhood to identify candidates for leadership roles. I would ask who should be on the advisory council, what kind of resources the advisory council would need, and what role the advisory council would play in making that happen. You would have a strong council.

Vallas emphasized his extensive experience working with the Arab community in Chicago, including his contribution to the creation of a cultural and linguistic curriculum guide for the city's more than 500,000 Arab American students.

In addition, Vallas noted that his father-in-law, Dean Koldenhoven, fought for Muslim rights while serving as mayor of the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights in the summer of 2000, when locals protested the construction of a mosque there. Was. Vallas claimed to have "helped place Arab Americans in leadership positions on the Chicago school board."

After endorsing the mosque, Koldenhoven lost his bid for re-election; However, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library recognized her for her courage in May 2002 by giving her the "Profiles in Courage Award".

Another candidate for mayor, Congressman Jesus Garcia, noted how the Arab American community had collaborated with former mayor Harold Washington to form the Arab Advisory Council in 1983 and described himself as a longtime supporter of Muslim and Arab American rights. was established as

In metro Chicago and across the country, he said, "My commitment to the inclusion, the advancement, and the well-being of the Arab American community remains steadfast.

It is crucial that we keep working to expose, oppose, and speak out against any traces or manifestations of Islamophobia in the US Congress. Because I am aware of what Muslims are, that is where I stand. They are my closest friends and I know who they are.

According to Garcia, several Arab and Muslim Americans work for him. He praised the election of Abdelnasser Rashid and Nabeela Syed to the Illinois state legislature in January and claimed to have stood up for Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who Republicans kicked out of the House Foreign Relations Committee this month over her support for Palestinian rights.

According to Garcia, he is also working to have Arab American business owners recognized as Minority Owned Enterprises on a federal level, in line with legislation that State Representative Cyril Nichols of Illinois introduced late last year in the Illinois Legislature.

According to AADC representatives, Lightfoot turned down a request to speak at the event on Sunday. As an alternative, she dispatched a non-Arab emissary who briefly stated that Lightfoot respects the rights of the Arab community. Regarding the closure of stores owned by Arabs in 2021 and 2022, he chose not to comment.

"She (Lightfoot) has not shown any sign of being responsive to our community. Samir Khalil, president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, who collaborated with the AADC on efforts to persuade Lightfoot to permit the closed businesses to reopen, said, "She wouldn't meet with us.

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She can't pretend that it didn't happen, according to store owner Saad Malley, who also worked with the closed Arab businesses to help them reopen. Because they were Arab Americans, many Arab business owners had their establishments shut down.

Among the eight candidates running to unseat Lightfoot in the election on February 23 are Wilson, Vallas, and Garcia. The two front-runners will compete in an election on April 4 if neither of them wins more than 50% of the total votes cast.

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