Retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley told a gathering of Chicago Arabs that they need not apologize to anyone for the actions of extremists overseas during a speech celebrating American Arab heritage month.
Daley also said that he is planning three more overseas trips to the Arab World in the coming months, beginning with Casa Blanca and then to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Daley did not offer details on the trips but he praised American Arabs as equal members of America which he called “a nation of immigrants.”
About 300 American Arabs attended the reception, hosted Thursday by the Chicago Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs at the alHambra Restaurant on West Randolph Street.
“You do not need to apologize for no one. I will say it again. You do not need to apologize to no one for anything that may take place somewhere else in the world,” Daley said to applause. “That is unacceptable. Everyone is an immigrant and no one should be apologizing to anyone throughout the world. Your contributions have been very significant and are a part of the mosaic of our city.”
Daley defended the advisory council which each year hosts the Arabesque Festival, which is the only major public event celebrating Arab heritage in Chicago. The event is held every summer and attracts thousands of attendees showcasing Chicago’s rich Arab heritage and culture.
“I am always asked, why do we have an advisory council on Arab affairs? It’s very simple. We are a city of immigrants. Our past, present, and future. We welcome immigrants from all across the world and we want them to come here. And we want to make sure they feel welcome. And that is the role of the Arab Advisory commission,” Daley said.
“We are a city of immigrants and we want them to feel at home here. That is important to our city because we are all immigrants.”
Daley said he was proud of the contributions Arabs have made to the city and to the country. And he said he intended to continue to strengthen outreach to the Arab world.
“I am proud of the Arab contributions to our city in business, professions, in family life, in their religious life. All aspects of their life enriches Chicago. We are truly a global city. But being a global city means we have to not just understand the language but the customs, histories and traditions and the gifts they have given to civilizations. That is why we have established a language programs in our area high schools. Because of a global city we want to give our children the advantage of learning languages. The traditions of the Arab World are important to us as a global city,” Daley said.
“We are the first city ever to have invited the mayors of the Arab cities from the middle east to the Richard J. Daley Forum. We held that many years ago and it made a strong statement.”
Daley, who has visited several Middle East countries during his 22 years in office including recently Amman, Jordan, said he was proud of the relationship that his office has made through the Sister Cities Program. The program brings business and community leaders in Chicago together with those in selected Sister Cities. Chicago ahs three in the Middle East, Amman, Jordan, in Casa Blanca, Morocco and in Petach Tikvah in Israel, which was the target of protests by some Arab activists who attended the reception.
Daley said the Sister Cities program is about “building relationships” and creating networking opportunities for “our young people.”
“I firmly believe there will be more and more immigrants and I want to make sure they are comfortable coming to the city of Chicago in the United States of America,” Daley said.
“We must understand that this part of the world, the Middle East, and this civilization’s history. They have given so much to our world that many people have forgotten what they have given to our civilization. The contributions the Arab World has given to our civilization and many times has been forgotten in history. History doesn’t begin in the last 10 or 12 or 14 years. History goes back to their contributions in arts, in sciences.”
After the event, the Jordan Sister Cities Program hosted a musical ensemble at the alHambra Restaurant.