Lauren Traut, Patch, February 7, 2024
Orland Park Mayor Keith Pekau has drawn the ire of the Chicago Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations for his commentary after some residents asked local officials to take a stance against the.
More than a half-dozen Arab American residents spoke at the Feb. 5 Village Board meeting, imploring Pekau and the Orland Park Board of Trustees to adopt a resolution calling for a cease-fire. The residents had collected 800 signatures on a petition asking officials to act.
“What side of history does Orland Park want to stand on?” said lifelong Orland Park resident Yousif Zegar. “The side that did nothing, or the side that had compassion for innocents?”
After several addressed the board, the meeting grew raucous, with chants of “ceasefire now!”Pekau called for a recess and had security clear the room. After the meeting reconvened, Pekau continued his comments, emphasizing first that the opinions were his own and not that of other officials.
“First and foremost, I’m an American. I’m not a German American, I’m an American,” Pekau said. “That’s where my allegiances lie. Period. Dot. End of Story.
“And if you’re an American citizen, and you don’t feel that way, in my opinion, you’re entitled to that opinion, but you can certainly go, and go to another country and support that country, and all the power to you if you choose to do that. … I will always support America’s interests.”
CAIR responded to Pekau’s comments Tuesday, decrying them as “ignorant and dangerous.”
“CAIR-Chicago condemns in the strongest terms the ignorant and dangerous remarks made by Orland Park’s mayor,” CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said. “The notion that Americans who disagree with an official should pack up and leave to another country is more befitting of the 1960’s Soviet Union, rather than of the United States, where freedom of expression and conscience is a founding principle of this country and its constitution.
Residents speaking to the board were of Palestinian descent, stressing also that a large portion of the Orland Park population shares that identity. A November 2023 study cited that Cook County has the largest Palestinian population of any other county in the nation, WBEZ reported. Many live in Orland Park, Oak Lawn, Tinley Park and Bridgeview, the Sun-Times reports.
Zegar also listed larger cities such as Chicago and San Francisco that have adopted cease-fire resolutions.
“I don’t want to look anything like [Chicago] or San Francisco,” Pekau retorted. “And if that’s what you want to live, how you want to live, then go live there. ‘Cause Orland Park ain’t it.”