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Being a Cubs fan is rough. A Muslim Cubs fan? Even rougher

Ayana Jamal

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and Ayana Jamal, niece of Sun-Times assistant metro editor Rummana Hussain | Provided photo

Being a Cubs fan has never been easy.

Identifying as a practicing Muslim in an environment where so many people “otherize” Islam hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk either.

But I never thought the day would come when I would struggle with my existence as a Muslim Cubs fan.

“Real quick . . . trying to move up closer . . . In or out????” my brother, Kamran, texted on Tuesday, asking me and my sister-in-law’s cousin Zubair whether we wanted to upgrade our season tickets.

“Do it,” Zubair said.

“In,” I texted back, although there was some hesitancy on my part in light of the revelations this week of Joe Ricketts’ Islamophobic and racist emails.

Rummana Hussain, assistant metro editor. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Rummana Hussain | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Ricketts’ later apology was hollow and insufficient. Switching sides and rooting for the White Sox, though, isn’t an option.

Cubs fans won’t stop buying tickets to games at Wrigley Field in spite of the hateful messages and some of the Ricketts clan’s support of Donald Trump’s “racism-fueled presidency,” a die-hard White Sox fan I know pointed out on Facebook.

“But I bet if any Ricketts family [member] ever kicked a dog,” he wrote, “that would create lots of White Sox fans.”

He has a point. On occasion, Sox fans do make sense.

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Unfortunately, for Muslims and other marginalized groups, the grotesque racism and xenophobia in Joe Ricketts’ emails exemplify how bald-faced bigotry — like baseball — is a popular American pastime.

“Muslims are naturally my (our) enemy due to their deep antagonism and bias against non-Muslims,” Ricketts wrote in one email uncovered by SplinterNews.com.

The Ricketts patriarch — obsessive in his electronic missives against Muslims, multiculturalism and Barack Obama (of course, a secret Muslim) — also referred to Islam as a “cult” and a “dangerous element in society.”

Rummana Hussain at a Cubs game in 2014 with her nephews (left to right) Elyan Jamal and Obayd Hussain. | Provided

Given the rhetoric of the right, Trump’s proclamations that “Islam hates us” and his alarmist Tweets alerting the country that — gasp — prayer rugs were found at the border, no one should be surprised that those in power vilify Muslims without serious repercussions.

And some of those on the “other side” are no more nuanced in their views of Muslims. Just Google Bill Maher and Islam.

Even the well-intentioned often fall flat on their faces.

As many religious, racial and ethnic minorities are aware, dig just a little and you’ll learn that someone you admire or someone affiliated with something you love — whether it be a cause, a rock band or a sports team — said or acted malignantly toward those very groups you strongly identify with.

Joe Ricketts doesn’t own the Cubs. But he did help in the purchase of the franchise run by his children.

I understand if Ricketts’ comments have turned some people off enough to keep them away from Wrigley Field.

I’m sure that when I begrudgingly step into the Friendly Confines this spring, those antagonistic barbs will be in the back of my mind.

Am I thrilled knowing that my money is going to the Ricketts family, given the views of some of them? No.

On the other hand, I do want Joe Ricketts to know that his family is taking cash from and mingling with “the enemy” with a smile. My oldest niece, Ayana, took pictures with Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts twice while he was making the rounds at Wrigley.

I hate that Joe Ricketts, through his poisonous words, tied the Cubs to Islamophobia.

But I am a naive Cub fan. I have hope.

I hope I can eventually go back to watching a game at the ballpark without being reminded that I am hated.

And I hope the only unease I’ll feel, once again someday, is when the Cubs blow a lead and I fear it’ll take them another 108 years to win it all again.

Rummana Hussain is an assistant metro editor at the Sun-Times.