In two opinion page articles, the St. Cloud Times makes the case that difficult issues are best dealt with in forums that are open to the public, whether the sponsors are public or private organizations. The commentary and editorial are prompted by meetings related to the city's refugee residents.
The editorial board notes in Keep talking about differences — publicly:
Here's the good news when it comes dealing with cultural differences in the St. Cloud metro area: Residents have opportunities to talk about — and learn about — those differences in civil, public settings.
In fact, this week features two more.
First, Jaylani Hussein, state director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, will speak at 5 p.m. Tuesday at St. Cloud State University's Kimberly A. Ritsche Auditorium in Stewart Hall. Hussein's topic is Islamophobia in Minnesota. Islamophobia is an extremely strong dislike or fear of Islam and the people who practice it. His speech is free and open to the public.. . .
These opportunities come in the wake of two other conversations. One was helpful in addressing cultural differences in a civil, respectful manner. The other was not.
Minnesota Public Radio filled the St. Cloud Public Library's Mississippi Room Jan. 28 for its "Muslim in Minnesota" forum, which featured four local Somali residents talking about living in Minnesota as a Muslim and how to help bridge obvious cultural gaps.
The other, held Jan. 26, was labeled "Shariah 101" and billed as focusing on "the nature of Sharia law, its connection to Islam, and its relevance to world and local events." The speaker was Jeffrey Baumann, a Coon Rapids man known for his opposition to Islam.
Sadly, although the event was publicized, its organizers refused to open it to the public even though four state legislators — Sens. David M. Brown, R-Becker, Bruce D. Anderson, R-Buffalo, and Reps. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, and Cindy Pugh, R-Chanhassen — reportedly attended. . . .
Executive editor John Bodette writes in Closed meetings on controversial topics build mistrust:
. . . Closed meetings fuel mistrust. If the area is going to make progress in gaining understanding among all our citizens (that doesn't mean we all have to like everyone), these events must be open to the public and all media.
Opponents of immigration cite security concerns. Our reporter went to the restaurant where the meeting was held and saw two St. Cloud police vehicles outside. No incidents were reported.
Earlier, an email circulated from a group called Peace in St. Cloud erroneously stating [City Pages Susan] Du worked for the Times and City Pages was one of our publications. Both statements are incorrect. But there were no names included to direct a response.
When we sent an email demanding a correction to the earlier mass email, we were told people were too scared to attach their names to the document. Those concerns should be reported to police. Otherwise, engage in conversation open to the public and media. Be accountable.
Minnesota Public Radio sponsored a "Muslim in Minnesota" town hall meeting two days later . It was open to the public and media. Four local Somali people were on a panel expressing their views on being Muslim in St. Cloud and Minnesota. More than 200 people attended.
The people sponsoring the event also had security concerns but took measures to make it a safe place.
Finally, a program to discuss Islamophobia in Minnesota with Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations, is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at St. Cloud State University.
It is open to the public and the media.
Let's keep community conversations going forward. Let's make them open, safe and civil. . . .
Finally, the Star Tribune's editorial board looks at the question of North Star Islamophobia in Yes, Minnesota Muslims do face hate and harassment:
A Minnesota man firebombs a Somali restaurant in downtown Grand Forks, N.D.
A Somali woman out with her family at an Applebee’s in Coon Rapids is assaulted by a woman who smashes a glass beer mug across her face, cutting it deeply, screaming at her to “go home.”
A school board member in Columbia Heights complains on social media that Muslims are “unsanitary” because of their wash rituals before prayer.
In the wake of a recent Star Tribune editorial on the “Un-Minnesotan” effort to create a more welcoming culture for Muslims, some readers expressed disbelief that the state harbors anti-Muslim sentiments, while others were angry that one immigrant group was being singled out for special consideration. Some also declared the effort “provincial” for defining inclusion as a Minnesota trait.
We disagree on all counts.
The incidents above, disturbing enough on their own, are not isolated. Somali storefronts in St. Cloud have been vandalized and, in December, the provost of Bemidji State University wrote that Muslim students there were increasingly targets of harassment. It was Minnesotans who, several times in the last few years, invited controversial pastor Usama Dakdok to bring his hate-filled gospel — “Allah is the god of terrorism” and “every Muslim is a demon” — into the state, including at a public school in Bagley and at two events in Bemidji last year before the uptick in student harassment.
Read the entire editorial at the Star Tribune. As we noted in Anti-Islam speaker Usama Dakdok will appear at April Bloomington & Duluth Worldview Weekends, one of the speakers mentioned in the editorial will be in Minnesota in April, while "Peace in St. Cloud," the anti-Muslim group in the Granite City, stated in the Sharia 101 meeting that it intends to invite Dakdok to speak to them.
Photo: The MPR panel in St. Cloud.
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