In the Name of God: the Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord
Chicago has gotten very bad press this past week:
At least nine people were killed and at least 36 wounded in Chicago over the Easter weekend, prompting a newly formed federal unit to step in to help tackle the city’s pervasive culture of gun violence.
Five of the victims were children between 11 and 15 who were playing in a park next to an elementary school, the Chicago Tribune reports. The youngest had just returned from church and shared Easter dinner with relatives when a car pulled up and opened fire. She was struck by two bullets, one of them puncturing her lung and breaking her collarbone, leaving her in a critical condition.
In a Monday statement, a prosecutorial unit called the Violent Crimes section said it will put its full focus on how to use federal statutes to combat Chicago’s endemic gang and gun problem, giving the city its nickname “Chiraq.” The shootings over the weekend brought the total number of suspected homicide this year to 90, two less than during the same period last year.
The city was nicknamed "Chiraq"? Ouch. The problem of violence in parts of the city is indeed terrible, and there are many issues and factors that underlie this violence. Fixing the problem is a tough task, and I pray that community leaders, religious leaders, and law enforcement are able to work together to bring peace to these communities ravaged by violence. No one deserves to live in the fear these fellow Chicagoans have to endure, and I pray their plight gets better.
Yet, does this very sad state of affairs tell the entire story of Chicago? Does this violence define all of Chicago and all Chicagoans? Of course not.
As anyone who lives here knows, Chicago is a beautiful city (its winter weather notwithstanding), perhaps the most beautiful city in the country. Its people (if not its winter weather) are warm, and friendly, and vibrant, and vivacious. Its neighborhoods are eclectic, and each one can take a person to a different world without ever leaving the city limits. Its restaurant scene is the finest in the world, and Chicago, in fact, is home to the top restaurant in the world. I had a chance to see the entire city when I ran the 2010 Chicago Marathon, and it is truly an amazing place with truly amazing people.
Some parts of the national news media dubbed Chicago "Chiraq" due to the news of those terrible shootings. But the city of Chicago that I know and love is much more than that, and the name "Chiraq" does Chicago a terrible injustice.
So too does the characterization of Muslims as "terrorists" and Islam as "violent."
Many people come to these conclusions based on the (almost) constant news coverage of acts of terror by Muslims, all the while remaining almost completely silent when non-Muslims commit alleged acts of terror. In fact, some have even said that "not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim," even though this has been shown to be wrong time and time again. Just as it is not fair to call Chicago "Chiraq" based on the news of the terrible Easter weekend shootings, it is not fair to characterize all Muslims as "terrorists" based on more intense media coverage of terrorism committed by Muslims.
If one wants to get a real taste of the great city that is Chicago, just spend a summer visiting all its fantastic neighborhoods and its awesome downtown. It will be an experience not soon forgotten. Want to get a sense of the great community that is Chicago's Muslim community? Just watch this video.
Both of us, Chicagoans and Muslims, are much more than the negative media coverage. The more people realize this, the better our world will be.