Arab Chamber leaders Radi Abuhashish and Hassan Nijem hold Iftar attended by three of Chicago’s leading candidates for mayor of Chicago, Ald. Raymond Lopez, Dr. Willie Wilson and Paul Vallas, as well as State Representative Cyril Nichols who sponsored legislation to designate Arabs as a “minority” to gain greater access to state contracts, and Ald . Gilbert Villegas who is a candidate for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District
By Ray Hanania
Three of the city’s top mayoral candidates, a congressional candidate and a lawmaker pushing for the passage of a law recognizing the rights of Arab businessmen to receive state and county contracts attended at an Iftar hosted by members of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce.
Iftar, held Thursday at Radi Abuhashish’s home in Chicago, featured mayoral candidates Dr. Willie Wilson, Ald, Raymond Lopez and Paul Vallas.
Joining in breaking the Ramadan fast was also Ald. Gilbert Villegas, who along with Lopez is hosting a public forum to investigate Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s closing of more than 150 Arab-owned businesses last summer.
This public forum to examine Lightfoot’s discriminatory targeting of Arab business owners will be held Monday, May 9 at the Islamic Community Center of Illinois (ICCI), 6435 W Belmont Ave, beginning at 11 a.m.
And, a special presentation was made to Illinois State Rep. Cyril Nichols, who is introducing a law recognizing Arab Americans as a “minority” to allow them to qualify for state contract preferences or the “layouts” giving them equal footing with other races. and the ethnic groups that enjoy this special privilege of awarding contracts.
“I had the honor of greeting various politicians and candidates representing the great city of Chicago and Cook County at my home,” said Abuhashish, a Chicagoland businessman and member of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce.
“Everyone present made it a special and successful event. My goal was to connect the Middle Eastern community with our mainstream politicians on an intimate level. Inviting them to my home made it a much more special occasion for everyone involved. Our representatives and officials have been able to interact personally with my community, and I am grateful for that.
The Iftar was hosted in a large tent to accommodate attendees and special guests who enjoyed traditional Arabic dishes.
Speaker of the House Hassan Nijem and Abuhashish presented Nichols with a letter of support for the introduction of the legislation that would add “Arab” to the list of minority business enterprises and minority businesswomen which includes African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders and women.
“The legislation allows Arab business owners to qualify for set-aside contracts which are intended to help minority groups who are often marginalized in the contracting process,” said Nichols, who was appointed to represent the 32nd District in April. 2021.
Under the state program, which exists in Illinois and many other states, up to 20% of state contracts must be made available to minorities on the state list.
“The law gives Arab-American companies the opportunity to win contracts worth billions each year that they might not be able to obtain without state recognition,” Nijem explained.
Villegas is running as a candidate in the June 28 Democratic primary election to represent the 3rd congressional district. Nichols is also seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the June 28 election.
Lopez, Wilson and Vallas will run in the nonpartisan mayoral election to be held in February 2023, challenging embattled and controversial mayor Lori Lightfoot.
“Arab Americans are an important constituency and should be treated like everyone else with the same rights, opportunities and respect,” Lopez said.