Controversial Reactions Surrounding Bally’s Chicago ‘Mosque’ Casino Fueled by Misinformation

Sports Betting News: Bally’s Casino in Medinah Temple Sparks Controversy Among Muslim Social Media Users

Posted on: September 15, 2023, 11:35h.

Last updated on: September 15, 2023, 11:35h.

Bally’s Casino at Medinah Temple has been causing a stir among some Muslim social media users since it opened last Saturday because of the misapprehension that it is a mosque. 

Casino at Medinah Temple, Bally’s, Chicago, muslims
The Casino at Medinah Temple in Chicago, above, may look like a mosque but it is not and never has been a place of worship. (Image: Chicago Sun Times)

The Times of Islamabad reports that “social media platforms in Muslim-majority countries, such as Pakistan and Turkey, have been buzzing with a controversial claim.” Some of the most strident voices have argued the casino is a direct provocation to Muslims. 

The casino, Chicago’s first, is temporary and will exist until Bally’s completes the construction of a permanent riverfront casino scheduled to open 2026. And it’s easy to see why it might be mistaken for a mosque. 

Built by Freemasons 

Originally an auditorium, the Medinah Temple was built in 1912 in the Moorish Revival style, which appropriated the arches and domes used in Islamic architecture. In short, it looks like a mosque. 

Piling on the confusion, inscribed above the entrance of the building are the Arabic words “كَلِمَاتْ اَلطَّيِّبَة,” which mean “There is no God but Allah,” taken from the first kalima of the Koran. 

But while the Medinah Temple has been, at various points, a concert hall, a circus, and a Bloomingdale’s furniture store, it has never been a mosque. 

It was built by the Shriners, a Masonic organisation which included among its numbers John Wayne and President Harry Truman. Shriners refer to themselves formally as the “Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.” But there is nothing Arabic about them. They adopted a Middle Eastern aesthetic for fun. The passage from the Koran appears on the door because it is a rip off of the Alhambra in Spain, which was built by Muslims in the 13th century,

Freemasons refer to their meeting places as “temples” further adding to the misconception that the building has religious significance. 

‘Satan’s Handiwork’ 

So the new casino in a very old building is not a direct provocation to Muslims. However, the presence of the kalima above the entrance and the use of the name Medinah may still be offensive to many adherents to the faith. Medinah, or Medina, in Saudi Arabia, is the last resting place of the Prophet Mohammed and one of the most sacred sites in Islam. 

Casinos, meanwhile, are anathema to pious Muslims, and games of chance are described as a “grave sin” and “abominations of Satan’s handiwork” in the Koran.

Incidentally, there is a chain of bingo halls in the UK called Mecca Bingo.

On Christmas Day in 1997, bricks were thrown through the windows of a branch of Mecca Bingo in Luton, Bedfordshire, by members of the local Muslim community, causing £3,000  of damage. 

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