Tag Archives: Chicago

A Jewish Alderman commemorating the life of a Muslim Leader

“15 die, several injure in car bomb blast in Peshawar.” My morning started with one more day of disappointment of hoping to not find any story of Pakistan in the NYtimes headlines. I swallowed the tears clogging up my throat after looking at all the pictures of buildings from my country blood-stained and ruined. I quickly hit the close button on the corner of the screen and brushed out all thoughts about the news so that I could follow through with the schedule for another day of research in the Chicago city.

We drove down to Devon Avenue, the hub of the Pakistani/South Asian community living in Chicago. Our host for the morning, Mr. Khattak, stopped the car and pointed his finger towards one of the most extraordinary images I had seen in this country – “The Muhammad Ali Jinnah Way.” I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the name of Pakistan’s founder on this Chicago crossing. His words echoed in my head as I stood next to Dr. Ahmed staring at those letters that equated freedom and justice for both of us.
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South Side of Chicago

Last week’s trip to Chicago was great—we met lots of interesting people and had the chance to explore the city, complete with its stunning skyscrapers and views of a glittering Lake Michigan. I’ve been coming to Chicago for years because my father is from the city. My grandmother was from a Lithuanian family and my grandfather an Irish family. They settled in a working class neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. My grandfather was a fireman and worked many other odd jobs and my grandmother stayed home to care for their eight children. This was a Catholic, immigrant neighborhood and my father’s best friend next door was Italian. The family lived in the same house from the 1940s until my grandmother moved out in 2000. When I was growing up I used to come to the house for family reunions. I would play catch behind the house in one of Chicago’s famous alleyways. Over the years more and more of the old European Catholics moved out to the suburbs, and more Mexicans began to move in. Continue reading

American Madrassa

Last week we visited the Muslim Community Center Fulltime School in Chicago, Illinois. It was truly an “American Madrassa”, as Madrassa simply means “school” in Arabic.  It was a fascinating glimpse into a side of Muslim life in Chicago I hadn’t seen before. The school was kindergarten through eighth grade and included students from all around the Muslim world.

We saw girls playing basketball in the gym with their scarfs on, and praying in the school mosque. We also visited a class room where an American history teacher was discussing the civil war. These students were conscious of their identities as both Muslims and Americans studying the Quran and reciting the Pledge of Allegence. Habeeb Quadri, the school’s principal, showed us around and told us of his discussions with students attempting to reconcile some of the religious tenants of Islam with American teenage culture. Habeeb gave us a copy of his book on the subject: The War Within our Hearts.

Relations with neighbors in the community could be stressful at times, repeating a pattern we witnessed elsewhere on our journey. But along with the problems—which in this case including people periodically throwing bricks through school windows—there were also touching stories of community members who welcomed the Muslims into their neighborhoods and attempted to forge better relations between ethnic and religious groups.

I was touched by the school’s students and the trials that these young Muslims often have to go through from questions of dating to the image of Islam in the media which puts them on the defensive. The goal of the school, Habeeb explained, was have a school community that would eventually be welcomed as Jewish or Catholic schools are while staying true to its Islamic roots. This, he believed, was the promise of America.  

Frankie Martin

Take Professor Out to the Ballgame

Being from Boston, Massachusetts, I have developed an unwavering devotion to the Boston Red Sox baseball team.  When Hailey and Mr. Woldt cordially asked me to join them with Professor Ahmed at a Chicago Cubs game at the famous Wrigley field ballpark, my gut instinct was to express my allegiance to the Sox and how my attendance was a borderline sac-religious act.  How could I decline the invite?  After all, I certainly could use some of the American national pastime to ease the stress from our strenuous schedule.


After we sat down in our left field seats, I was pointing to all the various bases, foul lines, position players, and other objects around the park to teach Professor Ahmed the intricacies of the game, just as he taught me the intricacies of Islam over the years.  The hardest part was convincing him that baseball was superior to cricket, a game that he grew up loving during his childhood days in Pakistan, and during his studies in England.  I do know, though, that he appreciated and enjoyed the peanuts, as both of us shared and went through a bag of them in just one inning.  Overall, Wrigley Field could not have been a more fitting setting for the Professor’s first ever baseball game on this historical journey of ours.



Craig Considine