History of Great Mosque of Cordoba being rewritten by church, activists claim

History of Great Mosque of Cordoba being rewritten by church, activists claim
History of Great Mosque of Cordoba being rewritten by church, activists claim

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - Chicago: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who launched a crackdown targeting Arab American businesses in a bizarre effort to confront street gang violence, was thrown out of office by the city’s voters in Tuesday’s nonpartisan election.

Lightfoot, who was one of nine candidates running in the city’s election, trailed behind former schools’ CEO Paul Vallas who led with around 34 percent of votes cast, and Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who received 20 percent of the vote. The outgoing Lightfoot received just 16 percent of the vote.

Because no candidate won more than 50 percent of the total votes cast, Vallas and Johnson now face an election run-off scheduled for April 4.

Many in the city’s Arab community had endorsed Lightfoot when she first ran in 2019 after she promised to restore the annual Arab Festival and the city’s Advisory Council on Arab Affairs, both of which were discontinued by her predecessor, Rahm Emanuel.

But in her four years in office, Lightfoot abandoned the community and targeted their businesses for closure, Arab American leaders said.

“She never fulfilled her promises to restore the Arabesque Festival or the Advisory Council on Arab Affairs — which monitored anti-Arab discrimination and inclusion — that Emanuel closed,” said Samir Khalil, president of the Arab American Democratic Club.

“At our AADC forum on Feb. 12, Vallas articulated in the strongest terms his promise to restore the festival and the advisory council, which was founded originally in 1983 by Chicago’s first African American mayor, Harold Washington.

“We look forward to working with Vallas including on his promise to establish an Arabic curriculum in … Chicago public schools as he promised,” Khalil added.

During his appearance at the AADC Candidate’s Forum, Vallas told the 450 Arab Americans in attendance that he would fulfil the broken promises made to them by Emanuel and Lightfoot and would include them in all of the city’s decisions, vowing to end Lightfoot’s practice of targeting Arab business owners, and to restore Arab community events abolished by Emanuel.

“I will restore the Arab Advisory Council when I am elected mayor. Why is there even a debate about this? It will be restored … We will resource the Arab Advisory Council so they can evaluate and recommend programs,” Vallas said.

“We will work with the community to find individuals who will be put into positions of leadership. It will happen.”

Khalil, who attended Vallas’ celebrations after making the final two, said the candidate has a long history of working with the Arab community, helping to define an Arab American cultural and language curriculum guide for the city’s school system of more than 500,00 students. 

Vallas said he “helped place Arab Americans to positions of leadership at the Chicago school board” and noted the strong support his father-in-law, former Palos Heights Mayor Dean Koldenhoven, gave to Muslims to build a mosque in his Chicago suburb in 2000.

Palos Heights residents opposed the mosque and voted Koldenhoven out of office in April 2001.

Two other candidates who attended the AADC forum also vowed to restore Arab American rights in Chicago. Dr. Willie Wilson and Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia finished fourth and fifth in the mayoral race.

Although vote totals are unofficial, Vallas’ lead held a significant vote margin over his rivals and he was quick to announce his victory as the leading candidate going into the run-off.

“I’m incredibly thankful to the people of Chicago for supporting our campaign, but our fight isn’t over yet and we will be spending the next five weeks talking to the people of our city about the need to elect a leader who is transparent, accountable, collaborative, and who puts public safety at the top of our priorities,” Vallas said in a statement.

“The city of Chicago needs a leader who will bring our city together. Someone who shares our residents’ values as a lifelong, pro-choice Democrat. Someone who is prepared with the comprehensive plans that we need to restore public safety in our communities, turn around our schools and stabilize our finances. I’m ready to take on that challenge and be a mayor for all Chicagoans.”

With 98.22 percent of the vote counted, the early unofficial total showed Vallas receiving 171,808 votes — or 34 percent of the vote — while Johnson received 102,885 votes, around 20.31 percent of the total.

Lightfoot received 85,745 votes, Garcia 69,833 votes, and Wilson 48,032 votes.

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