A leader of the Chicago Muslim community threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cubs game Monday night at Wrigley Field, five months after the release of hate emails leaked from its billionaire owner, Hartford Courant reported.
“As someone who loves this city, I think the power of Chicago is that we continue to show up, even when we profoundly disagree with each other,” Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, said.
“We will get in other’s faces and challenge one another and occasionally even inspire one another to do better and be better.”
In the emails, which Splinter News published in February and included messages from 2009 to 2013, Joe Ricketts called Muslims his “enemy” and referred to Islam as a “cult” that is a “dangerous element in our society.”
Though Nashashibi has a concern that his appearance would come off as “just a symbolic effort” and serve as more of a distraction from the real work required to end the xenophobia, he decided to participate.
He said he had a change of mind because the Cubs organization has taken the issue seriously by meeting directly with Muslim organizations and individuals, committing to public service announcements and dedicating resources to anti-bullying campaigns.
Cubs’ spokesman Julian Green said the organization has had several “thoughtful conversations” with members of the Muslim community and is planning workshops and training to combat racism.
“Even something which may be considered fan-friendly and fun speaks a great deal, as far as what we stand for in terms of inclusion,” Green said, referring to the first pitch.
Nashashibi founded the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in 1997 to provide services and outreach as well as address injustice in Chicago’s marginalized neighborhoods.
The organization runs a health center and provides job training and transitional housing for former inmates and high-risk youth.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
American Muslims see rising Islamophobia as a major obstacle to their daily life.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, said that anti-Muslim discrimination incidents and hate crimes increased in the third quarter of 2018 by 83 and 21 percent respectively, compared with the first quarter.
During 2018, CAIR documented more than 1,000 reports of potential bias incidents. The numbers include situations involving various government agencies.