‘We Are Not the Enemy’: Muslims Respond to Chicago Cub’s ‘Bigoted’ Emails

  • Imran Shahbaz, a 40-year-old Chicago native, grew up watching the Cubs play baseball
  • He and his father, a Pakistani immigrant, bonded by watching games on TV. 
  • So it felt a bit jarring for him to read Joe Ricketts’ emails.

CHICAGO – A series of leaked anti-Muslim emails from Chicago Cups billionaire owner has shocked Muslim fans who have been supporting the team for decades, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

“It was a slap in the face,” Imran Shahbaz, a 40-year-old Chicago Muslim native, said.

“We just want to watch the games without feeling alienated. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask for. But I guess this kind of Islamophobia and ignorance is just American life now.”

For years, Imran grew up watching the Cubs play baseball. He and his father, a Pakistani immigrant, bonded by watching games on TV.

“It was our thing growing up,” he told Religion News Service. “It was our American thing to do together.”

In the emails, which Splinter News published Monday and include 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.”

In one 2012 email, the billionaire wrote that “we must be constantly vigilant against the antagonism and aggression of Muslims against us,” and he said he was considering having a book written about how “Islam crosses the line from religion to a cult.”

The emails were strongly condemned from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who issued a statement calling them “bigoted opinions.”

Conversation Required

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said Tuesday at a news conference that it’s good the emails were published.

“It’s important to note that had these emails not been leaked, where would we be now?” Rehab said.

“What kind of playing out of these sentiments would occur within the Cubs establishment against fans, against players who were Muslim who want to play on the team? Would they play out in a discriminatory fashion? Would they play out in ways that would put the Muslims on the side toward marginalize and even demonize?

“And so it’s good that they’ve been leaked. But the question is: What would have happened if they weren’t? So we got the apology now that they’ve been leaked. But the positions are there. So what we need to address very clearly and concretely is what ways the Cubs establishment, beyond apologizing for the emails being leaked, step up and show through concrete action that they recommit to the anti-bigotry values of Chicago, to work with the Muslim community, to show that in concrete fashion, and other communities affected by this very problematic, hatred rhetoric.”

Rehab said there were no plans to boycott the Cubs “at this time.”

“We’re calling for a conversation and ways to move forward.”

On the other hand, Joe Ricketts apologized in his statement, saying “I’ve said things that don’t reflect my value system. I strongly believe that bigoted ideas are wrong.”

Yet, Muslim fans felt betrayed and heartbroken.

Asha Binbek, a CAIR communications coordinator who described herself as a black Muslim woman who grew up in Chicago as a Cubs fan and would often attend games to celebrate special events such as her birthday, said, “I’m a bit heartbroken.”

“I would like to see some reconciliation, some proof the Cubs’ (slogan) really is ‘Everybody in,’ that they are inclusive, that they want their fans there, no matter where they come from, no matter what they believe in,” Binbek said.

Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.