Politics/National Security

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.

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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.

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Can Columbus Day and Indigenous People’s Day co-exist?

By June Leffler

[Package of Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline stories here]

Chicago enters the debate over whether or not to celebrate Christopher Columbus, a man whose legacy has turned sour. Chicago designated Monday as Indigenous People’s Day, to be celebrated in conjunction with Columbus Day. Sharing the day might sound like a judicious move, but some Italian Americans are not happy about it.

Increasingly, cities like Seattle and Minneapolis are designating Indigenous People’s Day to celebrate the contributions of Native Americans and acknowledge their hardships. Four states – Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and South Dakota don’t celebrate Columbus Day at all.

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Power To The People: Tasha Viets-VanLear

By Thaddeus Tukes

[A version of this story, A profile in power: Activist Tasha Viets-VanLear fights for black freedom in Chicago was co-published in The Grio and on SJNN (Social Justice News Nexus)]

An aura of serenity and peace permeates the room when Tasha Viets-VanLear enters. Clad in all black with a gray scarf, she sips green tea with her legs crossed in a black swivel chair as we speak. Her hair is cut to wave length, and a silver ring shines from under her nose when the sunlight touches it. With a smile on her face, she says:

“My name is Tasha Viets-VanLear. I use ‘she’, ‘her’, and ‘hers’ pronouns. And, I’m from Chicago, Illinois.”

She is also one of the most preeminent artivists (a person who actively engages in community organizing and protesting, who also creates art that often reflects their activism work) in the Chicago area.
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Illinois’ energy policy challenged

By Yu-Ning Aileen Chuang

Donald Trump may describe the nation’s energy policy as a “disaster,” but not everyone in Illinois would agree.

With the most nuclear power plants in the nation, and as one of the top five coal-produced states, Illinois is pressing ahead as well for clean energy jobs and industries.

The state’s clean energy legislation in 2007 led the way, setting up the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) and a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which led to programs and incentives for utility customers.

And since last year, Illinois has witnessed another attempt at clean energy policy – the Clean Jobs Bill in the state legislature. Despite the bill’s problems in the legislature, its supporters are hopeful.

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Local officials react to limitations on election day registration

By Christen Gall and Guy-Lee King

UPDATE: Oct.6, This has been updated, see latest news here.

After U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan ruled election day registration unconstitutional in Illinois last week, election officials in Chicago are scrambling to figure out the logistics for Nov. 8.

Voters hoping to register to vote and cast a ballot on election day will face a limited number of polling locations. Following the ruling, only a few locations, likely downtown, will allow for election day registration. Some have speculated that the decision could affect the outcome of state and local races.

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Chicago groups prepare for Nov. 8 election

By Christen Gall

With six weeks until election day, organizations across the city are working to include voters that may otherwise be left out.

“There’s a lot of energy in the Latino and Arab communities about what it [the election] means,” said Villanueva, youth engagement manager of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “[There’s] a lot of solidarity being built. A lot of it has come out of the attack on immigrant communities.”

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights works to engage Chicago’s diverse array of Latino, Arab, African, European and Asian immigrants.

And this election has united immigrant communities because of campaign rhetoric about many immigrant groups, said Villanueva.

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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.

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