All posts by maryamsaleh2017

Sewing new lives for refugee women in Chicago

By Maryam Saleh

A long, dark skirt with a blue floral pattern, perfect for an evening out. A white tunic with sheer sleeves, wrapped to the elbow in gold embellishment. A long-sleeve, black-and-white dress with an open front, matched perfectly with black leggings and a pair of pumps.

These are just some of the items made or embellished by four Chicago women. Seamstresses in their past lives, they are Syrian refugees in their present realities. And at blue meets blue, a Chicago-based clothing line, they found jobs that value the intersection of those identities.

The company, launched two months ago by Syrian-Americans Shahd Alasaly and Randa Kuziez, is specifically designed to create jobs for refugee women.

Continue reading

Amid political unease, Muslims seek comfort in faith

By Maryam Saleh

Standing in front of an American flag that hangs on the wall of the gymnasium at the Islamic Center of Naperville, sunlight spilling through the large windows behind him, Imam Rizwan Ali spoke of hope.

“As Allah took care of his prophets, he will take care of us, and we need to do everything we can to be positive contributors in our society,” he said, speaking to the crowd at a town hall meeting Sunday.

About 100 men and women – mostly middle-aged, mostly Muslim – came to the post-election community meeting to think, process and learn, they said. Ali urged them to follow the example of the Prophet Mohammad, who was “the most optimistic person,” even as he faced persecution some 1,400 years ago.

The meeting was one of many events organized by Muslims across the nation in the last week. They are concerned about their future under a president, who campaigned on promises to impose a “total and complete” ban on Muslim immigration to America and famously said “Islam hates us.”

Continue reading

Illinois stands with her – and her, and her and her

By Maryam Saleh

A tumultuous election year wound down in wild but appropriate fashion early Wednesday, with several critical races still too close to call. One thing’s for certain, though: Female candidates came out on top across the state.

As results in the presidential contest rolled in, neither Republican Donald Trump nor Democrat Hillary Clinton had garnered the 270 Electoral College votes needed to claim victory. At the time of this writing, Trump had won 244 electoral votes to Clinton’s 215, according to CNN. Clinton took her home state of Illinois, while Trump picked up a number of key swing states, including Florida, Ohio and North Carolina.

UChicago Watch Party
Students filter out of an election watch party at the University of Chicago. (David Jordan/MEDILL)

Both chambers of the U.S. Congress will remain in Republican hands, as Democrats were unable to win back the Senate majority they lost in 2014, despite predictions to the contrary. One bright spot for the Democrats, however, was Illinois, where U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk in the U.S. Senate race. But Democrats lost key Senate contests in Wisconsin and North Carolina and were trailing in New Hampshire late into the evening. The Democrats needed to capture either five GOP Senate seats, or four seats and the White House, to take control of the chamber.

Continue reading

Chicago pediatrician ‘bears witness’ to atrocities in Syria

By Maryam Saleh

You would never guess that he was a stranger to Syria only three years ago.

He speaks of Syria’s towns with familiarity, of its people with great fervor, of America’s need to do more with righteous indignation.

He traveled to three countries to help Syrian refugees, and, at age 69, he risked his life – quite literally – to “bear witness” to Syrians’ tragedy, and their resilience.

John Kahler is a Chicago pediatrician who, for the last several months, has become a champion of the Syrian cause, raising awareness about events in the war-torn country and calling for a change from a “feckless” American foreign policy.
Continue reading

Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race heats up, and experts expect a Democratic victory

By Maryam Saleh

Wisconsin’s unusual U.S. Senate race between an incumbent Republican and the former three-term Democratic senator he unseated in 2010 is heating up, but experts say Russ Feingold,  appears almost guaranteed to defeat Ron Johnson, R-Wis.

Besides the significance of such a rebuff to the GOP’s surge in the state, Feingold’s win would bring the Democrats one step closer to winning back control of the Senate.

“I don’t think the Democratic Party here in Wisconsin [is] even worried about this race,” said Kathleen Dolan, professor and chair of the political science department at University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee.

Continue reading

Resilient Syrians could use community support

By Maryam Saleh

Wadad Elaly likely has much in common with her classmates at Sullivan High School. Her favorite subject is math, and  least favorite class is gym. She likes to draw, and hopes to someday be a doctor. And like many Chicago residents, she doesn’t much enjoy the weather.

But unlike many of those around her, the 15-year-old girl represents a group that is the subject of a polarized national conversation about American immigration policy.

She is a Syrian refugee.

Continue reading

Islamic leader stirs Muslims’ links to Democrats

By Maryam Saleh

His memories of his father behind bars for pro-democracy work in Pakistan planted the seed.

The first English phrase he remembers learning is habeas corpus, a legal term rooted in Latin. When his father was filing petitions to challenge his imprisonment, he couldn’t pronounce the word. Now, he laughs, he still struggles to spell it.

But Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, 64, is no longer a newcomer. The leader of Muslim Democrats,  he represents an expanding base of Muslims who identify with the Democratic Party more than any other religious group, according to a 2015 Gallup poll.

Continue reading

Chicago college students urge compassion and action for Syria

By Maryam Saleh

Dana Zakieh gazed at the room full of students and gave them an order.

“Sit down if you have ever been forced to leave your country by consequence of a violent occurrence in that country,” said the 20-year-old Syrian-American psychology student.

Not a single person took a seat.

“This is it. All of you guys are standing. I want you to recognize how incredibly blessed we are,” she said at the student gathering about the Syrian crisis.

Continue reading

English is Syrian refugees’ ‘key to survival’

By Maryam Saleh

She couldn’t visit a doctor’s office without a translator. Or communicate with her children’s teachers. Or get around a city that felt daunting yet safe.

Her Syrian high school education had taught her the very basics. And the two years she spent helping her kids with their homework in Jordan had forced her to brush up on her skills. But when Um Mohammad, a Syrian refugee, arrived in the United States one-and-a-half years ago, her English-language capabilities were extremely limited.

She was determined to change that.

Continue reading