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Bally’s Casino at ‘Medinah Temple’ causes ire among Muslims

The recent opening of a temporary casino in a building that closely resembles a mosque has ignited controversy in Chicago, with concerns over religious sensitivities and accusations of provocation.

– Ghalib Husain, Our Chicago Correspondent

Chicago, 20 Sep: The recent opening of a temporary casino in a building that closely resembles a mosque has ignited controversy in Chicago, with concerns over religious sensitivities and accusations of provocation.

Kalima inscribed at the entrance of “Medinah Temple” casino

The casino, located within the historic “Medinah Temple” building, has raised eyebrows due to its architecture, which closely mimics Islamic design elements. The entrance features an inscription of the Kalima Tayyaba, that is La Ilaha Illal Lah (There is no God but Allah). The building’s name, “Medinah Temple,” further adds to the perceived religious connotations.

Critics argue that the casino’s presence within a structure that resembles a mosque and bears religious inscriptions is a direct provocation to the Muslim community, given that Islam strictly forbids gambling. According to the Quran, games of chance are considered a “grave sin.” The use of the name “Medinah” is particularly sensitive, as it refers to the sacred city of Madinah in Saudi Arabia, the final resting place of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and one of the holiest sites in Islam.

Pakistan and Türkiye have voiced concerns and claim about the casino’s presence in a building that appears to imitate Islamic architecture and symbolism. This controversy comes at a time when the Muslim community’s sensitivities and rights are in focus worldwide. However, not all members of the Muslim community share the same viewpoint. While some have expressed outrage and concerns, others have remained silent on the issue.

The “Medinah Temple” building, constructed in 1912, was originally built by the Shriners organization and appropriated architectural elements reminiscent of Islamic design, including arches and domes. Despite its resemblance to a mosque, Muslims did not raise objections in the past, as the building’s activities did not directly conflict with their religious beliefs.

However, Bally’s, a prominent casino company, recently opened the temporary casino within the “Medinah Temple” building in 2023. The Shriners organization, responsible for the Medinah Temple’s construction, faced harassment after the 9/11 attacks when they were mistaken for Muslims’ due to their Middle Eastern-themed buildings. The “Medinah Temple” building itself changed hands and became a departmental store in 2000 before being repurposed as a casino.

As the debate over the “Medinah Temple” casino’s presence continues to escalate, calls for action and dialogue between the casino operators, the Muslim community, and other stakeholders have grown louder. The situation remains fluid and it remains to be seen how Chicago’s Muslim communities, organizations, and the wider public will respond to this controversial development.

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