Resolution: Sikh and Muslim communities can anticipate a more welcoming environment

By Jennifer Tranmer, Contributor

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A city council resolution aimed at reducing violent and discriminatory acts against the Sikh and Muslim communities will create greater awareness and promote acceptance of these groups, said an Asian American community leader on Wednesday.

“We do hope that violence against our communities and hateful speech against our communities will be reduced in light of symbolic statements such as this (the passage of the resolution),” said Ami Gandhi, executive director of South Asian American Policy and Research Institute.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) introduced the Sikh resolution in response to the recent chain of violent and discriminatory acts committed against the Sikh and Muslim communities throughout August. The attacks in Chicago were committed on mosques and gravestones and coincided with the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said Rabya Khan, staff attorney of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

There is a “feeling of otherness” that is felt by community members when attacks like this happen, said Pawar. Two of these recent attacks occurred at a mosque during prayer times, according to the CAIR website. In one instance, an acid bomb was found but nobody was harmed. In another instance shots were fired in a mosque in Morton Grove. The most recent incident occurred at a graveyard in Evergreen Park where derogatory statements were spray painted on a Muslim gravesite.

“We’ve come together as a South Asian community– Violence cannot be tolerated. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” said Gandhi.

The Chicago City Council and Mayor Rahm Emanuel aim to “promote education and dialogue,” among Chicagoans, “create a welcoming environment,” and “continue to denounce hate crimes and bigotry in public and political discourse,” according to the resolution.

“It’s important to — call attention to the nasty rhetoric that’s taking place in the public sphere,” said Pawar in a presentation to the city council.

Inflammatory statements were made by “many public and elected officials” to promote a political agenda and “this is not right,” Pawar said in a press release.

Gandhi concurred. She hoped that public and elected officials would be more mindful of what they say in public discourse because it does impact the public.

When asked about opposition to the resolution, neither Gandhi nor Khan stated there had been any. No press release has been publicly issued about the resolution, but opposition is not anticipated when they do, said Khan.

“The idea is not that religion needs to be places on a pedestal, –it’s more that people need to be respected and permitted to worship in their houses of worship,” said Gandhi.

The passage of the resolution confirmed, “Mayor Emmanuel’s and the City Council’s commitment to the freedom and respect of all people to practice their faith fearlessly,” said Rajinder Singh Mago , a Sikh community leader who opened Wednesday’s meeting with a Sikh prayer, a first in the city council’s history.

Ultimately, those involved with the resolution hope to have Chicago become a more welcoming city to all people, said Khan.

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