I want to start by saying that I am a satisfied customer as an advertiser and as a reader of the Chaska Herald. I know it to be well-read and respected in town.
The problem is an ad that ran in the Oct. 24 edition, headlined “Dr. Muhammad Khalifa was hired by Eastern Carver County schools” etc. It presents some common-sense positions of Muslim educators that make sense if explained. But then at the end it says “Is this what you want for your children? Vote NO NO NO.”
The problem is, it is not aimed at “your children.” It is basic information about how to accommodate another faith tradition that has some requirements above and beyond the commitments that non-Muslims make, like praying five times a day and washing hands and feet. That should not be such a big deal.
Dr. Muhammed Khalifa is a PhD and a professor at the U of M, one of the nation’s leading educational universities. But if people have not had much exposure to Islam, they may become frightened. This guy is an expert.
I even disagree with one of his points, that “Islam is a way of life, which is different from Christian traditions.” Christian traditions are very much a way of life, but we have decided to separate church and state because Christians often try to impose one belief over another. In Europe, the Hundred Years War was fought over how to serve communion! His point here is that they want to be able to pray in ways that are not forcing anyone else to follow what they do.
Our church does an interfaith art show every year from Thanksgiving to the Dr. King holiday, and it always includes Muslim art. The Taj Mahal is a Muslim creation, and it is considered to be the most beautiful building in the world. People enjoy learning about the Muslims’ cultural traditions, in my own personal experience.
I have worked with Muslim students at Augsburg University, where I taught religion for 11 years. They are very good scholars. They don’t drink, so they aren’t getting hammered at weekend football parties. Their congregations are very generous, giving money and food to food shelves, which is a tradition that goes all the way back to the start of their faith. Mormons don’t drink either.
Speaking of which; they love Jesus, they have a whole book on Mary in the Koran, and one tradition is that “In order to be a good Muslim, you have to be a good Christian and a good Jew.” They trace back to Abraham, just as we do. And in every picture you have ever seen of Mother Mary, she is wearing a hijab. Our faiths have a lot in common.
Without having much time to respond right now, I’ll just say this: We as a church believe that we (and you) have nothing to fear by having Muslims in the community. This is an extension of racial fears and immigrant fears; I say, “Do not be afraid.” Give them a chance. Meet them, talk to them. Barbeque some beef with them. You will find them to be considerate, cultured, family-oriented, and respectful of your faith experience.
I am open to teaching an introductory class to Islam and interfaith work to anyone who wants to have it.
Best regards to this active and evolving community.