History of Arabs in Chicago: The Day a Sheikh Came to Chicago

History of Arabs in Chicago: The Day a Sheikh Came to Chicago

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History of Arabs in Chicago: The Day a Sheikh Came to Chicago


By Ray Hanania

In May 1976, I was the publisher and main writer of a small English language newspaper called The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper. The newspaper was the first English language publication to focus on Chicago’s Arab American community and it began publication in 1975 and continued through 1977. Among the many events I covered was the arrival in Chicago of the Sheik of al-Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates, Sultan Bin Mohammed al-Qasimi. Sheik al-Qasimi arrived to a boisterous welcome organized by the Arab American community in conjunction with the Bilalian Newspaper (Mohammed Speaks), the publication of the Black Muslims in Chicago.

The event was organized by two leaders of Chicago’s Arab American community, Samir Hasan, who operated the “Export-Import Gift Shop” at 48th and Ashland Avenue in the early 1970s, and who also hosted the al-Salam Mosque which was located on the second floor of his business. It was also co-hosted by Yusef Diab, one of the elders of Chicago’s Arab and Muslim community in Chicago.

Sheik al-Qasimi arrived at Butler Field on May 3, 1976 and was greeted by many dignitaries from the Arab and Muslim Community including Heavyweight Champion Mohammed Ali and by Wallace D. Muhammed of the Nation of Islam. The following day, May 4, 1976, the Arab and Muslim community hosted a reception for Sheik al-Qasimi.

This is a historic photo exhibit of the event. (All photographs copyright (C) 2004 Ray Hanania, all rights reserved. These photographs may not be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of Ray Hanania.)

al-Qasimi’s plane arrives, May 3, 1976 at Butler Field.

al-Qasimi and entourage arriving at Butler Field.

Mohammed Ali awaiting to greet al-Qasimi. May 3, 1976. Butler Field, Chicago.

NOI Wallace D. Mohammed greeting al-Qasimi at Butler Field.

al-Qasimi at Butler Field.

al-Qasimi’s limo arriving at 48th and Ashland Ave, and the al-Salam Mosque, located on the second floor of the Export-Import Gift Shop owned by Samir Hasan. (View of Ashland Avenue looking South.)

Samir Hasan’s Export-Import Gift Shop at 48th and Ashland (east side of street). This photo was taken in July 1977 but shows a typical afternoon and the “Souq-like” atmosphere that this shop and many other Arab American owned stores offered customers.

al-Qasimi being greeted as his enters the Export-Import Gift Shop/al-Salam Mosque building at 48th and Ashland Avenue. May 3, 1976.

Arab American leader Yusef Diab (in jacket on left) next to al-Qasimi as he enters the Export-Import Gift Shop/al-Salam Mosque building. May 3, 1976.

Samir Hasan greeting al-Qasimi in front of the al-Salam Mosque.

Yusef Diab inside the al-Salam Mosque (2nd floor) managing the presentations of flowers and gifts from Arab American children and other dignitaries.

Inside the al-Salam Mosque on the second floor of the building at 48th and Ashland Ave. Samir Hasan, owner of Export-Import Gift Shop (1st floor) giving al-Qasimi a tour of the Mosque Prayer and meeting rooms.

(Ray Hanania is a Palestinian-American author. Reach him by e-mail at rghanania@gmail.com. He is the winner of the Society of Professional Journalists Lisagor Award for Column Writing. His columns are archived at www.hanania.com. He is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News www.TheArabDailyNews.com)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

Click here to send Ray Hanania and email.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906
Ray Hanania