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Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at an Iftar at the Cultural Center. 0

Mayor’s Iftar speech has a July 4th ring

June 29th, 2016

Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke last night to some 280 members of Chicago’s Muslim community at an Iftar at the Cultural Center. Iftar is the evening meal that breaks the daily fast during Ramadan. This year, the Ramadan period ends July 5, right on the heels of Indendpence Day. It’s a point Emanuel noted in his speech.

“There is hate, there is violence, there is intolerance. Sometimes it manifests itself into a violent act. Sometimes it’s in ugly language. Sometimes it is political rhetoric that tries to pick on a community or individuals to create a differentiation instead of an understanding,” he told the crowd. “But this city, with a Jewish mayor and a vibrant Muslim community must send a message: If you offer hate, we offer love. If you offer fear, we offer hope. If you offer intolerance, we offer inclusion. That is the message of the city of Chicago, the city we call home.”

His powerful comments were interrupted throughout by applause from the crowd.

Emanuel has been a lightning rod for criticism. But it’s difficult to quibble with his ability to speak to the heart of what it means to be an American in Chicago.

“It came from the heart,” said Salman Aftab, president of A-Z Medical Services Corp. and chair of Cook County Sherriff Tom Dart’s Muslim Advisory Council. “This is an important time. Muslims need support from elected officers, especially when there is bigotry and xenophobia going on during this election campaign. He sent a loud and clear message that this is not acceptable in Chicago.”

I spoke to the mayor after the event about how he came to host the dinner and what motivated his impassioned comments.

He said he’s hosted Iftar dinners in the past but had skipped a year, so he promised Alderman Joe Moore, he’d do it again. “Given the recent events, it seemed even more important to do it,” Emanuel said, referring to the tragic shooting in Orlando, Fla. “I wanted to say to this group–Muslims, Pakistanis, greater Middle Eastern community–that your faith is part of Chicago’s future.”

Emanuel doesn’t spend a lot of time crafting his speeches. “It’s (mostly) off the cuff. I write ideas down and then weave them all together” said the mayor, who is spending the July 4th holiday at his Harbor Country vacation cottage with his family.

As in previous speeches, Emanuel used his grandfather’s personal story of immigration to make his point. And he inserted humor–easy to do when you’re the father of three teenagers.

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