All posts by bianelkhatib

Undocumented father takes sanctuary in church

By Bian Elkhatib


ose Juan Federico Moreno has not left University Church in Hyde Park since April 15. He is seeking sanctuary from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after they asked him to self-deport to Mexico.

Moreno, who is from Bolingbrook, has a wife and five U.S. citizen children. He was targeted for deportation after receiving a DUI in 2009.

“I regret what I did. But I paid my fines, all the tickets I got,” Moreno said in Spanish.

He said living in the church is difficult, but he’s thankful for the support he’s receiving from the church, the community and his family.

Photo at top: Jose Juan Federico Moreno has been living in University Church for over 40 days. He is taking sanctuary from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Bian Elkhatib/MEDILL)

Chicago rats — Are they friend or foe?

By Bian Elkhatib and Nikita Mandhani

Chicago is getting rattier. There has been an increase in rat complaints, and the city blames the irresponsible attitude of citizens towards garbage disposal and dog feces. Chicago’s Bureau of Rodent Control is asking all residents to keep their garbage lids closed and to pick up after their dogs.

In the meantime, the bureau is investigating all rat sightings in the city. To get rid of the rat population, the city is baiting the animals by placing rodenticide in rat burrows.

While many see rats as a problem that should be eradicated, there are some, like Charlotte Samuels, who love them.

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An inside look into one student’s protest of Donald Trump

By Bian Elkhatib

In some ways, Ana Ruiz is the face of a Trump protester. She’s young,  a college student, new to protesting, hurt deeply that she and other Mexican immigrants are being demonized, and will be personally affected by how Trump proposes to lead the country.

She’s a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Chicago, vice president of the Fearless Undocumented Alliance (FUA), a group for undocumented students and allies, and she helped organize the March 11 rally at the UIC Pavilion that was canceled over “security concerns” and that has become the centerpiece in a debate over whether protesters shut down Trump or whether Trump is using the event to mobilize his base.

Follow Ruiz through her day and decide for yourself:

Four days later, Donald Trump won the Illinois Republican primary with 38.8 percent of the votes. He also won Florida, North Carolina, Missouri and the Northern Mariana Islands the same day.

Photo at top: Ana Ruiz, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, protests during the anti-Trump rally on campus on Friday, March 11. (Bian Elkhatib/MEDILL)

Hind Makki makes sure a women’s place is in the mosque, if she wants

By Bian Elkhatib

Not long ago, women weren’t allowed to pray in some Chicago-area mosques.

Hind Makki is working to change that.

The 36-year-old blogger of Orland Park recounts a time in the mid ’90s when she went to a mosque on Devon Avenue with her father and her sister. She and her sister were denied entrance.

“One of the elderly gentleman there told my dad, ‘No women, no girls.’

“My dad was like, ‘where are they going to pray?’ He’s like, ‘they can stay in the car, no girls.’”

Hind Makki shares a story regarding her experience in a Chicago mosque. (Bian Elkhatib/MEDILL)

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Medill explains – The stateless Rohingyas

By Bian Elkatib and Nikita Mandhani


he Rohingyas are a primarily Muslim ethnic minority group from Burma, a country in Southeast Asia that is also known as Myanmar.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, media coverage of the Rohingya refugee crisis has been scarce.

The migration of Rohingyas from Myanmar and Bangladesh is “described as the biggest mass exodus since the Vietnam War” in the UNHCR’s study guide on the Rohingyas.

Their plight has captured the attention of President Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Photo at top: This temporary clinic provides some 13,000 Rohingya with basic health care two days per week. (Mathias Eick/EU/ECHO)

Harish Patel — immigrant, Muslim, state rep candidate

Text by Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram and Bian Elkhatib, video by Bian Elkhatib


e was 14 when he moved to the U.S. from India. He did not know any English. And he grew up on the northwest side of Chicago with his mother who cleaned homes for a living.

That was Harish Patel 16 years ago. Now, he is running for state representative of the 40th district against incumbent Jaime Andrade. Both Andrade and Patel are Democrats. If elected, he will be Illinois’ first Muslim state representative.

Addressing an enthusiastic and young crowd of followers on Feb. 27 in Logan Square, Patel talked about the importance of standing up for the rights of minorities and immigrants in the current American society.

He pointed to his Palestinian-American campaign manager Reema Ahmad and said, “It is the same country where Reema can run my campaign and Trump can say stuff that he does. That’s the same country. That’s the contradiction that boggles my mind.”

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Former Wheaton College professor talks about ‘same God’ controversy

By Bian Elkhatib


he controversy started when then Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins wore a hijab during advent two months ago and said Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Her actions made national headlines after Wheaton — an Evangelical Christian college — chose to suspend Hawkins. In early February, Hawkins and Wheaton parted ways.

On Wednesday night, Hawkins spoke at First United Methodist Church at Chicago Temple at an event hosted by the Chicago Sunday Evening Club. She talked about her “same God” statement with Ahmed Rehab, the executive director of the Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. When she made the “same God” statement, and attributed it to Pope Francis, it triggered a rich theological debate.

Hawkins, a Christian, also spoke about her act of wearing the hijab, something she said is “embodied solidarity.” Tabassum Haleem, the executive director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), was in the audience. She wears the hijab and said Hawkins’ act was “very touching.”

Haleem said she appreciates that Hawkins didn’t just “walk the walk.”

“There are very few people who rise up to that level of practicing what they preach,” she said.

Photo at top: Former Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins wipes a tear when discussing anti-Muslim comments made by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. (Bian Elkhatib/MEDILL)

Sierra Leone moves beyond Ebola to political drama

By Bian Elkhatib and Meggie Morris

Sierra Leone isn’t in the news often. When the West African country makes an appearance in mainstream U.S. media, it’s often in relation to Ebola, a disease that is reported to have killed almost 4,000 people in the country.

But the country currently ranks 79th in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters without Borders, a non-profit organization that promotes freedom of the press. and 119th in terms of corruption,  according to Transparency International — a not-for-profit organization that monitors corruption around the world.

Its population of about 6 million is 60 percent Muslim, 30 percent indigenous beliefs, and 10 percent Christian, according to the CIA World Factbook.

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