In western Minnesota town of Dawson, a Muslim doctor tries to understand his neighbors who backed Trump

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Dr. Ayaz Virji and his daughter Maya Virji, 9, walk back to their car after making a stop to buy popcorn from a stand after his lecture on Islam at the Granite Falls, Minn., City Hall.

DAWSON, MINN. — The doctor was getting ready. Must look respectable, he told himself. Must be calm. He changed into a dark suit, blue shirt and tie and came down the wooden staircase of the stately Victorian house at Seventh and Pine that had always been occupied by the town’s most prominent citizens.

That was him: prominent citizen, town doctor, 42-year-old father of three, and as far as anyone knew, the first Muslim to ever live in Dawson, a farming town of 1,400 people in the rural western part of the state.

 “Does this look OK?” Ayaz Virji asked his wife, Musarrat, 36.

In two hours, he was supposed to give his third lecture on Islam, and he was sure it would be his last. A local Lutheran pastor had talked him into giving the first one in Dawson three months before, when people had asked questions such as whether Muslims who kill in the name of the prophet Mohammed are rewarded in death with virgins, which had bothered him a bit. Two months later, he gave a second talk in a neighboring town, which had ended with several men calling him the Antichrist.

Now a librarian had asked him to speak in Granite Falls, a town half an hour away, and he wasn’t sure at all what might happen. So many of the comforting certainties of his life had fallen away since the presidential election, when the people who had welcomed his family to Dawson had voted for Donald Trump, who had proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States, toyed with the idea of a Muslim registry and said among other things, “Islam hates us.”

Trump had won Lac qui Parle County, where Dawson was the second-largest town, with nearly 60 percent of the vote. He had won neighboring Yellow Medicine County, where Granite Falls was the county seat, with 64 percent. Nearly all of Minnesota outside the Twin Cities had voted for Trump, a surprising turn in a state known for producing some of the Democratic Party’s most progressive leaders, including the nation’s first Muslim congressman.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE 

Minnesota Elects First Somali-American Female Legislator

On a day many are mourning, something to celebrate:

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For me, this is my country, this is for my future, for my children’s future and for my grandchildren’s future”

Although the U.S. did not elect its first female president Tuesday night, one woman still made history.

Former refugee Ilhan Omar, who proudly wears the hijab, became America’s first Somali-American Muslim woman legislator after she claimed a strong victory in the Minnesota House race.

The 34-year-old moved to the U.S. at the age of 12, after four years living in a Kenyan refugee camp following her escape from the Somali civil war, the Star Tribune reports. As well as her political duties, she is director of policy at Women Organizing Women Network—a group that aims to empower all women, particularly first and second generation immigrants, to become engaged citizens and community leaders.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TIME MAGAZINE 

 

 

 

How a Somali-American Muslim Woman Candidate Is Mobilizing Millennial Voters in Minnesota

ilhan-talking-to-students-1-1024x768On a recent Sunday evening Ilhan Omar’s campaign held a party to celebrate her primary win in August and the lead-up to the general election. Held at an East African restaurant in the heart of Minneapolis’s diverse East Lake Street, in many ways the gathering felt like a typical East African family party. The banquet hall was decked out with white tablecloths and blue ribbons—the colors of the Somali flag. Somali men waited outside the door jawing and catching up with friends and relatives.

The crowd inside, a mix of students, older white liberals and members of local East African communities, was a cross section of Omar’s supporters and the district she hopes to represent in the Minnesota State Legislature. Women looked elegant in their dresses. The men, young and old, were all in suits. Omar, like many of the young women there, had a creative and funky style. Her black and white patterned head-wrap matched a woven scarf hung over her shoulder and the long black beads draped around her neck.

Minnesota boy, bullied for being Muslim, takes on Trump

cb0e61-20160819-cair01A boy who has said he wants to be the first Muslim president is taking on Donald Trump, ahead of Republican presidential nominee’s appearance in Minneapolis scheduled for Friday.

Yusuf Dayur, 12, said Trump says things that fuel ill-will toward his fellow Muslims. Trump’s campaign is instilling fear in people, Dayur said, “who do not really know what Islam stands for and do not really know what the Muslim community believes.”

At a speech in Maine earlier this month, Trump said the U.S. does not do a good job of vetting refugees, which he says raises safety issues in Minnesota.

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“Creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment that is both stressing the state’s — I mean the state is having tremendous problems — its safety net, and creating a rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamic terror groups,” Trump said.

• Earlier: In speech, Trump targets Somalis in Minnesota, Maine

In Minnesota, 10 young men of Somali or Oromo descent have been charged with conspiring to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS. Six pleaded guilty, three were convicted and a 10th is believed dead. In addition, more than 20 young men traveled to Somalia to join the ranks of the terror group al-Shabab starting in 2007.

But those figures represent a small fraction of the tens of thousands of Somali-Americans who call Minnesota home.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MINNESOTA PUBLIC RADIO 

More Minnesota colleges are hiring advisers to work with Muslim students

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Fardosa Hassan rarely lingers at her bare Augsburg College campus ministry desk.

In the chapel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church-affiliated school, she hosts regular Friday prayer for Muslim students and faculty. In the campus wellness center, she brings in a therapist and imam to undercut the idea that seeking treatment for depression is un-Islamic. She takes Religion 100 students to mosques in the college’s Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

“Islam has called me to serve my community,” Hassan said.

A growing number of Minnesota private campuses are enlisting Muslim student advisers as their Muslim enrollment has sometimes doubled or tripled in recent years. The new hires help students find internships, fit prayer into busy class schedules and process anger at the extremists behind the recent Paris attacks. They’ve also reached out to broader campus communities in hopes of challenging the heated political discourse about Islam.

The job title is spreading nationally, where several campuses have faced backlash over their choice of Muslim chaplains. Off-campus, Augsburg’s pastor Sonja Hagander has had to explain why a Lutheran college’s campus ministry would hire a practicing Muslim.

“With the growing number of Muslim students, it was really key to have a Muslim student adviser,” Hagander said. “We can’t help but do what we’re doing.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE

A Framework for Christian-Muslim Relations

HistoryChristianity and Islam are the two dominant religious groups in our world. According to the Pew Research Center Report, the number of Muslims worldwide will be “nearly as numerous as Christians” by 2050. The study also points to the interesting statistic that for the first time in history, the number of Christians and Muslims will be 2.9 billion and 2.8 billion respectively. In view of this, interfaith relations assume an added significance. Christians and Muslims have a duty to work toward peace and betterment of humanity through a shared framework. It is imperative that the mainstream leadership take an active role in promoting positive relations that are based on the universal principles of these two world religions.

The extremely heinous acts committed by “Muslim” terrorist groups like ISIS are a betrayal of Islamic teachings, in the same way the genocide of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR) by “Christian” terrorists is a betrayal of Christian teachings; or the violence against Christians and Muslims in India by “Hindu” terrorists is a betrayal of Hinduism; or the violence against the Rohingiya Muslims in Burma by “Buddhist” terrorists is a betrayal of Buddhism. These horrendous acts should not be allowed to deflate the desire and passion among mainstream followers of all religions to continue to build relationships toward making this world safe for our future generations.

As I noted in my earlier blog, the Christian-Muslim Dialogue sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Dr. Jay Rock and Dr. Jamal Badawi were the keynote speakers at this celebration. Dr. Badawi’s framework for Muslim-Christian relations from a Muslim perspective was quite compelling. I would like to summarize that framework, quoting from his world renowned research paper, which is considered a mainstream thesis.

1. Faith in One Universal God (Allah in Arabic language):  Islam is founded on the belief that there is only one God, who is the universal Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher of all. Being the sole creator of all humankind precludes any notion of multiple, competing creators, each marshalling his creation against the other “gods” and their creation. Allah is One and is impartial toward His creation. He provides for all, including those who reject faith in Him, or even those who defy Him. He cares for the well being of all and gives them ample opportunity to repent to Him and end the state of separateness suffered by those who reject Him or are unmindful of Him. This belief implies that all humans are equal before Allah in terms of their humanity, irrespective of their particular beliefs. Only Allah is the ultimate judge of any person’s “theological correctness.” No human should be oppressed or mistreated by other fellow humans because of a perceived “theological incorrectness.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE 

Minnesota Achieves a Unique Distinction in Christian Muslim Relations

zafarstrib_1414998139_ICM1Say, ‘O people of the book’ [a term which particularly refers to Jews and Christians] ‘come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him (in His powers and divine attributes); that we erect not from among ourselves lords and patrons other than God.‘” (Qur’an,3:64)

The history of dialogue between Muslims and Christians goes back 1400 years when a delegation of Christians visited the Prophet Muhammad in Medina for a dialogue. They stayed in the Prophet’s mosque for three days and even prayed in their own custom when it was time for their prayers.

In 1989, Minnesota saw the birth of the Muslim Christian Dialogue program jointly organized by the Islamic Center of Minnesota (ICM) and the Minnesota Council of Churches (MCC).  The largest Islamic center in Minnesota and a major Christian umbrella organization coming together for such an edifying project set the tone of Muslim Christian relations in our state.  The increasing Muslim population and an overriding need for Muslims and Christians to understand each other in a deeper way was a major motivator behind the initiation of this program.

There have been similar efforts in other parts of the country and even in Minnesota in the past, but what sets this program apart from others is the consistency and commitment that both the organizers and the audience have shown for the past 25 years. To meet month after month, all the while sustaining the intensity of the spirit for dialogue to understand each other’s religious traditions better, requires a genuine passion for coexistence, acknowledgement of pluralism around us, and a belief in taking ownership to bring about a positive change in Muslim-Christian relationship. The ICM and MCC deserve to be applauded for this tremendous effort.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE STAR TRIBUNE