A researched at the University of Illinois at Chicago is looking at the relationship between Muslims and other residents of three suburbs including Morton Grove.
The three also include Bridgeview, where mobs surrounded a mosque for three days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Orland Park, were like Morton Grove residents opposed a planned mosque.
“The issues Muslims face are in some ways more difficult than for previous religious minorities because social conflicts involving Muslims have both domestic and global components,” said Loise Cainkar, a fellow of the UIC Great Cities Institute.
Cainkar cited backlash against Muslims resulting from the Sept. 11 attacks as one reason they have been slow to become involved in local communities.
“Many Americans have held Muslims collectively responsible for the 9/11 attacks,” she said. “As an isolated group, Muslims were easily targeted and there were few social repercussions for targeting them.”
UIC spokesman Anne Brooks Ranallo said the study, funded through a $50,000 grant from the Chicago Community Trust, has already started. Once her report is completed, Cainkar plans to distribute it to local Muslim leaders and meet with them to discuss ways to organize locally and help develop Muslim community leaders.
“One major lesson of history is that for Muslims to be welcome as members of American society, American society itself must change, and Muslims must do much of the work to cause that change,” Cainkar said.
In Morton Grove a group of residents organized to oppose construction of a Mosque adjacent to the Muslim Education Center. Although the project finally was approved, Muslim Community Center, the MEC’s parent group, was forced to file suit in federal court against the village before the issue was settled.
Mohammed Kaiseruddin, president of the Muslim Community Center, said Muslims have been slow to become involved in local politics and civic issues. But, he said, compared to other religious and ethnic groups in the suburbs, Muslims are fairly new.
“It’s happening, slowly,” he said.
He noted that in Skokie two Muslims have been elected to school boards. In Morton Grove there are no Muslim elected officials, but members of the village’s Muslim community have been named to other boards or commissions.