A group of protestors have targeted a Palos Township Trustee for over two years, seeking to have the elected official fired for remarks made on social media almost four years ago.
Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan made comments on her personal Facebook page in January 2015 about "Middle Easterners" failing to assimilate, concerns that many Americans share, but described in terms some found offensive.
Brannigan posted on her Facebook page: "In the 3rd district here in Illinois, our demographics include 25% Muslims of which very few integrate within the communities keeping themselves and their activities hidden from the general population."
"Everywhere you turn, from Orland Park to Bridgeview, those numbers are increasing in leaps and bounds. We are allowing these people whether they have peaceful intentions or not into our country without question," she added.
It is true that Muslims and Arabs in America may face racism, but it's also true the southern suburb of Chicago dubbed "Little Palestine," is home to mostly Palestinian-Jordanian immigrants who are exposed to Islamist leaders peddling anti-Semitism, anti-Israeli and anti-Western sentiments that hamper assimilation.
Bridgeview, Illinois, (15 miles south west of Chicago), is home to the largest mosque in the state; the Mosque Foundation, led by Sheikh Jamal Said, a Palestinian immigrant, whom investigators have said was tied to Hamas, according to Matt Levitt's HAMAS: Politics Charity and Terrorism in Service of Jihad. Said was named as an "unindicted co-conspirator" in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial. HLF and five of its leaders were convicted of providing funds to HAMAS.
The second largest mosque, in Orland Park, Illinois (26 miles south west of Chicago), Orland Park Prayer Center (OPPC) is led by Said's former assistant Sheikh Kifah Mustapha; another HLF unindicted co-conspirator with a history of anti-Semitism. In addition, last January, OPPC hired an assistant imam, Haitham Zamara, who appears cut from the same cloth as Said and Mustapha.
Brannigan issued a strongly worded and sincere apology to the Muslim and Arab community in September 2017, to no avail.
Since July 2017, protesters have crowded meetings of the Palos Township Board; screaming, yelling, and making threats, demanding that Brannigan resign. They are led by a group called "Take On Hate (TOH)." TOH was officially launched in 2014, in Detroit, Michigan, and claims that it "is a multi-year, grassroots campaign that challenges the growing discrimination and persistent misconception of Arab and Muslim Americans..." TOH was formed by the National Network of Arab American Communities (NNAC), a coalition which consists of membership organizations from around the country. NNAC's Bridgeview IL affiliate, the Arab American Family Services was founded by a former Mosque Foundation board member in 2001. NNAAC itself is an "institution" of ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), founded in Detroit.
While TOH mission statement claim that the organization "inspires a positive perception of Arab and Muslim Americans (...) and opposes and stands against all forms of hate and bigotry toward any group of people," it invokes one of the icons of Palestinian terrorism in the 20th century on its Facebook page — Rasmea Odeh.
In 1970, Odeh was convicted of two bombings in Jerusalem, including one that killed two young men at a supermarket. She was sentenced to life in prison but was released in 1979 as part of a prisoner swap between Israel and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
With family in Michigan, she applied for a U.S. visa in 1994, but didn't disclose her criminal record. Convicted in a U.S. Federal court for lying about her terrorist past, Odeh was deported in August, 2017. Until her deportation, Odeh served as Associate Director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) a Chicago-based activist group which is also a member of NNAAC.
While at AAAN, Rasmea worked with Take On Hate's Chicago organizer Bassem Kawar, one of the leading organizers of the Anti-Brannigan protests. TOH's other Chicago Organizer Husam Marajda, a regular fixture at the Anti-Brannigan protests, described Odeh as having "paved the way" for him in his activism in a 2017 social media post.
TOH has been inciting protestors to the limit, seeking to bully Brannigan and disrupting normal township business for more than two years over social media posts about assimilating immigrants made over four years ago. That's their view of "Taking on" hate. But when it comes to real hate, the kind that leads to terrorism and murder, TOH advocates for "justice" for Odeh; an unrepentant convicted terrorist they portray as a hero of liberation.
Hesham Shehab is the Chicago Area Associate of the Counter-Islamist Grid (CIG).