Local Muslims Donate Public Garden to the City of Chicago

Monday, November 13th marked a historic day in the life of Chicago’s Muslim community thanks to a display of vision and generosity by Bridgeview’s Muslim leadership.

On that cold Monday morning, Mayor Richard M. Daley, Mayor of the City of Chicago, and Tim Mitchell, Chicago Parks Superintendent, joined local Muslim community leaders and activists in the opening ceremony of the “Mosque Foundation Garden” in a plot of land immediately adjacent to the Adler Planetarium off of Lake Shore Drive.

The Garden, a gift from Chicagoland’s Muslims to the City of Chicago, spans an area of 1 acre and is strategically situated between Lake Michigan’s sandy beaches and Chicago’s famous Adler Planetarium in the city’s South Loop district.

Two cultivated strips of land are separated by a brick walkway that is minted with a large round engraving. The engraving bears the inscription “Mosque Foundation, Bridgeview Illinois” around an image of an astrolabe, a medieval Muslim invention that is used to determine the position of stars (a point of relevance to the location of the garden by the planetarium).

Trees planted in the garden are expected to form a shaded archway over the brick path when grown to full size. At one corner of the grassy patches, flowerbeds are carved out to beautify the landscaping with an assortment of vivacious colors come summertime, while at the other end, a selection of 50 stones, one from each State, form a Stonehenge configuration.

The gift idea, conceived by Talat Othman, a Chicago businessman, was implemented with the help of the Mosque Foundation leadership who rallied the Muslim community of Bridgeview to raise $100,000 in donations. The project took several months to complete.

Joining Mayor Daley, Mr. Mitchell, and Mr. Othman in a symbolic ribbon-cutting ceremony were key individuals responsible for the success of the initiative including Mr. Oussama Jammal, former Chairman and current Board Member of the Mosque Foundation; Imam Jamal Said, Imam and Director of the Mosque Foundation; Ms. Aisheh Said, Vice-President of the Mosque Foundation; and Chicago Park Commissioner and Attorney, Mr. Rouhy Shalabi.

A group of activists including the Mosque Foundation’s Executive Assistant, Hind Makki, ICIRR organizer, Ahlam Jbara, and freelance broadcaster, Youssef Marei, were present in a show of support, while members of the media were on hand to document the special event. Scholars present included Professors Scott Alexander of the Catholic Theological Union and Harold Vogelaar of the Lutheran School of Theology.

Present from CAIR-Chicago were Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director, Sultan Muhammad, Communications Coordinator, and Dina Rehab, Outreach Coordinator.

“This initiative is wonderful on so many levels,” Rehab said.

“First, it fulfills a key Islamic value and that is care for our environment; second, it sets a great precedent for mainstream Muslim philanthropy, a breakaway from traditional philanthropy that only benefits Muslims; third, it cultivates a sense of belonging to this great city among members of the Muslim community, and a sense of appreciation for the Muslim community among members of the general public.

“My hat off to Talat Othman, Oussama Jammal, Jamal Said, the Mosque Foundation community, and all the visionaries and activists who made this happen.”