‘Repel Evil With Good’: Chicago Muslims and The Chicago Cubs

It makes me proud to call the Cubs my team and Chicago Muslims my community

Photo by Heather Maguire on Unsplash

A lot of Muslims — including this one — felt a great deal of betrayal when it was revealed that Cubs owner Joe Ricketts had written this in emails that were leaked:

“Christians and Jews can have a mutual respect for each other to create a civil society. As you know, Islam cannot do that. Therefore we cannot ever let Islam become a large part of our society. Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims.”

In the wake of these leaked emails, Chicago Muslims met with the Cubs and Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts to discuss the way forward from this unfortunate incident.

Chicago Muslim Leaders meet with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts

They issued a joint statement today on what happened at the meeting and what next steps will be:

The meeting began with a discussion on the history of Muslims in America and in Chicago. Following the discussion, several Muslims in attendance shared stories about their personal history and experience as longtime Cubs fans and how the emails from Joe Ricketts raised doubt about the family and organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Tom Ricketts offered a heartfelt apology on behalf of the organization and expressed his desire to mend relationships in the Chicago Muslim community and lend his support in the fight against Islamophobia. Both parties agreed to convert the unfortunate circumstances that brought the groups together into a positive opportunity to work together against hate and bigotry.
The group concluded the meeting with a discussion on a proposed plan of action that included: the participation of notable Muslims in Cubs and Wrigley Field traditions, anti-hate PSAs featuring Cubs personnel helping to raise public awareness against Islamophobia, as well as Cubs support for three community initiatives: anti-bullying efforts, diversity and inclusion training and scholarships. The details of these and other initiatives, as well as the implementation timeline, will be discussed in subsequent meetings in the coming weeks.

Cubs Executive Chairman Tom Ricketts said in the statement:

“We have a tremendous opportunity to further our commitment to diversity and inclusion by joining the Chicago Muslim community in its efforts to eradicate bigotry and Islamophobia. My family and I want to thank Ahmed Rehab and Chicago Muslim leaders for the opportunity to meet and have a frank and constructive dialogue about building a better future.”

I asked Ahmed Rehab, Executive Director of CAIR-Chicago, about what his vision was about this meeting and what he hoped to accomplish. He wrote back to me:

“It was always about pushing back in a meaningful, genuine and visible way against Islamophobia. The vision was to have the Cubs push with us rather than to just have a situation where we push against them. And indeed they went from the franchise of being at risk of being associated with Islamophobia to the franchise that is eager to be the first to push back against it, recognizing that it is a pervasive and ugly epidemic. Credit to Tom, he offered a heartfelt apology, made a clear commitment against bigotry and to leverage their powerful brand to combat Islamophobia.”

That’s awesome. This entire effort models the Qur’anic way to deal with evil:

“The good deed and the evil deed are not equal. Repel by that which is better; then behold, the one between whom and thee there is enmity shall be as if he were a loyal, protecting friend.” (41:34)

The easy emotional response to the leaked emails would be to boycott the Cubs and protest against them, like some Muslims did in response to the Danish cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad. Thank God, Chicago Muslims — led by my friend Ahmed Rehab — resisted this knee-jerk reaction. They wanted something positive to come out of this incident, modeling the Qur’anic method.

And they did just that. They have enlisted the Chicago Cubs as partners to combat the scourge that is Islamophobia, and — true to their essence — the Chicago Cubs responded positively.

A few weeks ago, I felt betrayed by the Cubs. In the wake of this meeting and the Cubs response, I am prouder than ever to call the Chicago Cubs my baseball team. And I am also so proud to belong to an amazing Muslim community such as that in Chicago.