Originally posted April 3, 2017
By Roger Fraser
The DesPlaines mosque near Potter and Dempster suffered a recent bomb threat (cf. Chicago Tribune, 2/17/2017), and folks there were understandably nervous and jumpy given what’s happened to mosques in other parts of the country, the Quebec murders, and swastika attacks on synagogues and cemeteries. There was a call to show up and stand there in support during Friday prayers.
I arrived at 12:30 pm to find only a handful of people on the sidewalk in front of the mosque, mostly seniors my age and all of them (I think) from non-Muslim religious groups. They were gathered around a woman spokesperson who gave an eloquent and moving news conference in front of Channel 9 and Fox News cameras.
It was one of those rallies all of us have attended now and then where, on arrival, we ask ourselves, “Really, was I really needed here?” Well, the answer, I am very pleased to say, was a resounding yes. I had the biggest and most colorful sign of anyone there—“Refugees Welcome Here, Ban Trump“—and, near the end of the conference, a couple of other protesters joined me at the street curb. We held our signs front-and-center so motorists on Potter, both worshipers turning in or out of the mosque and others passing by, were able to see we were supporting the time-honored right of people to gather and worship peacefully and without interference at their chosen place of worship.
As is true of every rally and march I’ve attended since January 19th the reception from passing cars and pedestrians was warm and supportive—honks, waves, thumbs-up, and v-signs galore! Oh, I can’t tell you how thrilling and invigorating it is to see such support from ordinary people driving by, people who may never dream of holding a sign themselves but who are damn happy you’re there holding yours!
Most important, the folks from the mosque were extremely grateful. They poured out at the end of the service and thanked us, their relief for our being there very visible in their handshakes and heartfelt back-slaps. One even plied me with a delicious pastry—I’m diabetic so I had to refuse—and even the iman showed up to thank us!
Sometimes the best demonstrations you attend—the ones you recall with the most fondness—are not the huge ones (great as those are, too), but the small, intimate ones like this one on Potter Street where the few people who can take off time from work, or who are retired and able to brave the cold, are so deeply appreciated and made to feel welcome.
When I was thanked by these young men, all of them Muslims—a faith I don’t share but one under vicious attack in the United States and needing every shred of our solidarity—I told each of them, “Thank you! I am honored to be here.”