A letter from a reader on the Brannigan controversy
A reader writes asking about the protests by Muslims in suburban Chicagoland against Republican Palos Township trustee Sharon Brannigan and comments she has made in the past criticizing Muslims.
By Ray Hanania
Sharon Brannigan has published views and opinions that have angered many Muslims in the Chicagoland suburbs. Muslims have protested against Brannigan, who ran for congress on the Republican ticket in the past and is currently an elected official on a local board at Palos Township.
Many Muslims have protested against Brannigan that she resign from her seat on the Palos Township board. She has responded that she has a right to express her opinion. Critics have described her views as anti-Muslim and racist. Defenders have said that the real issue is her politics and support of restrictions on immigration.
I have not interviewed Brannigan and I only met her once in passing years ago at an Orland Park parade when she ran for congress.
I receive many letters from readers. I received the following letter written by an anonymous reader and I have copied and pasted it here in full.
What do you think?
Hopefully, the discussion will be respectful.
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Dear Mr. Hanania:
I am writing this letter because I would like your opinion about a local controversy in the news. I have not seen you write about it in your column. I was hoping to hear what you have to say. I also wanted to share my views about it with you.
I read your columns often. I don’t always agree with you, I do feel you are reasonable about issues. You seem fair, and I feel you are honest even when it goes against what the majority believes.
So here is my question. Why are Muslims angry with Sharon Brannigan? I have read what she has said about people from the Middle East, and I have read what her critics have said about her. It seems to me the Muslim community is more angry with Brannigan than Brannigan is angry with them.
Here is what I mean.
Is it unreasonable for Americans to fear violence from people who live in Muslim countries? Many of the wars we have faced in the 15 years since Sept. 11, 2001 have been fought against extremists who are Muslim. Much of the terrorism, but not all, has been by extremists in the Muslim community or by extremist supporters of Muslims.
Don’t we have a right, as Americans, to demand those people who come from countries where many of the extremists originate should be given extra security scrutiny so we can separate the good from the bad?
Sharon BranniganI think that is what Sharon Brannigan has been saying all along. I think she has expressed concerns no one is asking who are the people who come into this country and are we carefully screening them to separate those who hate us from those who want to be like us?
Is it wrong to ask immigrants who come to American should embrace the principles of America and to become Americans first?
I don’t think many of the immigrants agree. I also think many in the Muslim community overreact and respond angrily, rather than with understanding, to the concerns others have.
I don’t know much about Islam or Muslims, except what I have read in the newspapers and the news media. I guess you can blame the news media for the negative perceptions many Americans have about Muslims, and yet I see the news media acting as if they care about Muslims, criticizing Brannigan but saying nothing about the security concerns many Americans have about people who come to this country from Muslim countries.
Is it possible Muslims are overreacting?
For example, President Trump has singled out five Muslim countries, banning immigrants from those countries from entering this country. I understand there are more than 22 Muslim countries, members of the Arab League. How is it discriminatory and racist to single out five of those countries, and yet not ban immigrants from the other 17 Muslim countries?
If this were a Muslim ban, why isn’t President Trump banning Muslims from entering this country from all of the Muslim countries?
What is most disconcerting to me is Muslims here in America, judging by the views expressed by many of the organizations represent them, don’t think these are issues we have a right to discuss publicly. It seems when someone expresses a view Muslims don’t like, it becomes a matter of racism and hatred, rather than the substance of an important discussion we should be having.
I have asked neighbors of mine who are Muslim and they feel these are important issues and they are not protesting or attacking Brannigan. They say maybe Brannigan did not express herself fully or carefully in a way considerate of what Muslims feel. But is it not also fair to say Muslims are not being fair, too, in responding to Brannigan’s concerns?
I support Sharon Brannigan, but I do not hate Muslims. I believe security is an issue, not because someone is Muslim but because many of the extremists and the terrorists have come from Muslim countries.
I would like to understand more about Muslims and how they feel they fit into this country, but I know if I were to ask and tell you my name, I would be attacked and accused of being a racist.
I am just a normal person. I am a housewife with three grown children. My husband has worked all his life and hopefully will be retiring in a few years. My eldest son served in the military as have several of my cousins.
I admit there is racism against Muslims, but I don’t believe it is from every one. I think the haters represent a small group of Americans. I don’t consider myself a hater of Muslims, or anyone.
As I said, I have been reading your columns and writing for many years, including going back to the days when you were a columnist with the Southtown Economist and when you hosted your radio show on WLS. I followed you when you went to the Chicago Sun-Times. I sense from your writings at the Southwest News-Herald and the Regional News you are not a big fan of the news media.
You always sounded very reasonable to me.
I wonder if there is reason and commonsense in this debate, or, is it the way things will always be. Many people in this country are concerned, some are angry and a few do hate. Both Muslims and non-Muslims.
A longtime Reader
Palos Heights, Illinois
Background on the controversy surrounding Sharon Brannigan:
Brannigan wrote on her Facebook Page, which has now been deleted, “Why are all our schools filling with Middle East students without proper documentation?”
She also wrote, “Muslims don’t integrate and keep their activities hidden.”
Brannigan, a Republican, took a clear position involving President Trump’s trip to the Gulf recently when First Lady Melania Trump refused to wear a headscarf while attending meetings with leaders of the Muslim countries.
NOTE: Please feel free to share your views. Posts that cross the line of racism and hatred will be removed or edited
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"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.
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