THE BLOG
08/15/2008 11:34 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Muslim Homeowners Concerned that Assessor with Anti-Muslim Bias Assessed their Property Unfairly

Frankfort Township Official in Hot Seat for Promoting Anti-Muslim Sentiments

Aug. 12, Frankfort, IL - When challenges occur, one never knows whether there are more disadvantages or more hidden benefits that come with them. Had this incidence occurred in some other nation, Muslims may have shamefully taken to the streets setting shops on fire and causing senseless mayhem and destruction, in the process maligning Islam more than they could ever imagine. There are always ways to handle issues that are more effective and constructive. This then is a local happening - one that begins on a note of hate but which culminates in an uprising of inter-faith solidarity and community building. There will always be those who disagree and yes, even hate you. How you deal with it - or don't deal with it - makes all the difference.

The American Islamic Association (AIA) of Frankfort, IL, held an Interfaith Solidarity meeting and press conference at 6 p.m. at 8860 W. St Francis Rd, Frankfort, IL 60423, today, in response to an Islamophobic email written by a public official. It all began with an article in the SouthtownStar, which reported that Paul Ruff, the Frankfort Township assessor, sent an e-mail containing anti-Muslim rhetoric to many Frankfort and Mokena residents. A recipient forwarded the email to the SouthTown Star, their local paper.

The e-mail, circulated in June, said America should follow the lead of Australia's former prime minister John Howard, who said Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law should get out of Australia. According to the SouthtownStar article www.southtownstar.com/news/1067371,072208ruff.article:

" "Once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our Christian beliefs or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, the right to leave," the e-mail said, supposedly quoting Prime Minister John Howard.

Mr. Ruff's e-mail was based on a column by Georgia state lawmaker Barry Loudermilk promoting similar ideology. "Maybe if we circulate this amongst ourselves, American citizens will find the back bone to start speaking and voicing the same truths," the e-mail continued. "If you agree, please send this on." "

AN UPRISING OF SOLIDARITY

The AIA press conference was an attempt to address the fact that many of the residents in that area are Muslim and fear that Ruff may not have been entirely fair when assessing their home values. Mr. Paul Ruff failed to respond to AIA's invitation to the event or its phone calls to discuss the matter.

Signatories on the solidarity statement included 10 religious leaders of various faiths from the South West Interfaith Team (SWIFT) and other faith-based organizations, and read:

"We respect the right of individuals and groups to express their views and beliefs. However, we expect elected officials to represent their entire constituency completely and fairly, without bias or discrimination.

"We promote interfaith dialogue and harmony. We understand that dialogue is the only way to reduce fear and suspicion between communities and the only way to increase respect, understanding and cooperation between them."

AIA is a founding and active member of SWIFT.

"The meeting was set up to be a positive, non-confrontational event," said Khalid Mozzafar, Director of Outreach and Communications, AIA. "It was a expression of religious tolerance, interfaith co-operation, highlighting the practice of religious freedom for American citizens, good citizenship of practicing American Muslims." Speakers at the event included AIA Chairman Dr. Afzal Ahmad and other church leaders.

A COMMITMENT TO SOLUTIONS

The town is committed to resolving the issue and Rhonda Novak, Will County Supervisor of Assessments announced that residents can file an appeal with the Will County Board of Review, no later than 30 days after assessment notices are published. These will appear on Aug. 20th in the Lincoln-Way Sun and on www.willcountysoa.com. Novak can also be reached at (815) 740-4648.

The American Islamic Association is an organization of Muslims providing facilities and personnel for regular and special prayers, Islamic religious and language education for all age groups, and social and religious interaction and outreach programs with other Faith Groups. The majority of AIA members reside in Frankfort, Tinley Park, Orland Park, and other surrounding communities. Sources for this report include AIA.