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A Slice of South Asia Lives in Chicago

  • Ade Astuti
  • Susy Tekunan

Chicago, Illinois, is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the United States. One of its best-known ethnic neighborhoods is Devon Avenue, the heart of the city's South Asian community. For producers Ade Astuti and Susy Tekunan, VOA's Jim Bertel takes us to this multicultural landmark in the American heartland.

Devon Avenue is a boulevard rich in culture offering many of the sights and sounds of South Asia. Abdul Sataar is President of Chicago's Muslim Community Center explains. "Back in 1965, [or] around '64, a lot of Muslims from India and Pakistan started migrating to the United States of America," he said. "And, because of the fact that Chicago is one of the largest cities, most people came to Chicago. There was no Devon Avenue [Muslim community] at that particular time. And since the majority of the people settled on the north side of Chicago, eventually Devon Avenue [community] came into being."

Today, Devon Avenue boasts the largest concentration of Muslims in the U.S., and the neighborhood's atmosphere reflects that.

There are supermarkets that sell products prepared in accordance with Islamic law. Devon Avenue Stores cater to their residents' needs. There are Islamic books, Bollywood films, and South Asian music and clothing for sale.

But Devon Avenue is a multicultural neighborhood, where Muslims live side by side with a Jewish orthodox community from Eastern Europe. While stores on the western side of Devon Avenue cater to the Muslim community, resident Dave Segal says many shops on the eastern side offer kosher foods. "I'm Jewish Orthodox, so this is a great neighborhood for me, myself. The shopping here is catering to the Jewish Orthodox neighborhood. This is what we're looking for, all the people here are very nice."

"I've never heard of any incident here on Devon. Everybody gets along very well. I've never heard of any fights, or any racial, or ethnic problems, not only among Muslims and non-Muslims, but also among the different sects of Muslims themselves," said Sataar.

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