Daily Southtown: Lipinski pays visit to mosque

Bridgeview hosts ask freshman Congressman to be a ‘champion of justice’ in D.C.

Nearly nine months after he was sworn in as a congressman to replace his father in the 3rd District, Dan Lipinski paid his first visit to the Bridgeview home of the Mosque Foundation.

His hosts were pleased he came so soon. William Lipinski waited more than 10 years before paying a visit, the foundation’s president, Mohammed Sahloul, jabbed lightly.

Lipinski got a tour of the mosque, school and youth center, a quick primer on Islamic religious traditions from Sheikh Jamal Said and a sampling of Middle Eastern food.

But the mosque leaders and representatives of other Muslim organizations also asked for an ongoing audience for their political priorities, pairing the request with a few numbers they thought he might find interesting.

Example: About 50,000 Muslims live in the southwest suburbs, most of them in his district.

“There is a saying in Arabic that says … like father, like son,” Sahloul said.

“Your father actually was a very strong voice in Washington,” he said. “But at the same time, his voting record regarding Muslim issues and Arabic issues (was) terrible.”

Lipinski said his door was open but conversation wouldn’t necessarily change his votes.

“I’m not promising you we’re going to talk and I’m going to agree with you,” he said.

Safaa Zarzour, president of the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the Muslim community opposes several provisions of the USA Patriot Act that the elder Lipinski supported and the younger Lipinski last month voted to renew.

Zarzour also asked Lipinski to address the backlog of citizenship applications on hold since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“We want you to know that we are on the same side as far as the goal,” Zarzour said. “We are, after all, citizens of this nation, and anything that hurts this nation hurts us, hurts our children.”

Lipinski noted he had written a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales asking for a way to help Americans contribute to Muslim charities without fear the U.S. government will at some point declare a link to terrorism and prosecute them.

Toward the end of the visit, Sahloul suggested Lipinski hire a Muslim staff member or intern, and that he hold a town hall meeting addressing Muslim concerns.

“We would like you to be a champion of justice in Washington, D.C., and if you do that, then you will have the Muslim community behind you,” Sahloul said.

Gregg Sherrard Blesch may be reached at gblesch@dailysouthtown.com or (708) 633-5962.

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