The Council on American-Islamic Relations answered questions from TC Daily Planet writer Julia Opoti:
Since the Star Tribune and television segments on TIZA have you noticed/or have records of increased anti-Muslim sentiments?
After the article appeared in the Star Tribune accusing the public charter school of being an Islamic school, the school started receiving harassing phone calls and emails and threats directed towards the school, students, and the principal. Most of the messages were profane. One called the school principal a “son of a pig.” Another said, “If you persist we will destroy you, your family and your country” as documented on Kare11. CAIR-MN has been contacted by Muslims expressing their concerns over the anti-Muslim sentiments the TIZA stories have created.
What examples of hate crimes have people reported to you? How was law enforcement in different Minnesota cities reacted to this?
The reaction of the Inver Grove Heights Police to the threats and hate incidents the school received has been excellent. When CAIR-MN contacted the local police, they were very concerned and immediately sent a Sergeant to the school to meet with school administrators. They also increased patrol around the school. Further, CAIR-MN informed the FBI of the hate incident and they also expressed concern and immediately got involved in the investigation.
What is the Islamic community in Minnesota doing to integrate or educate the majority culture on their religion. What challenges does this bring?
The issue is not integration. We have Muslims in this community who serve on school boards, Muslims who are college professors, doctors, lawyers, we even have a congressman who is Muslim. The issue is a lack of knowledge of what Islam is and who Muslims are. There are many groups, both Muslim and non-Muslim, that are working to build bridges of understanding. The Islamic Center of Minnesota holds an interfaith dialogue with the MN Council of Churches. The Islamic Resource Group gives hundreds of educational presentations to churches and other groups across the state. CAIR-MN holds community dinners and interfaith events on a regular basis.
Someone mentioned to me that some of the adversarial attitudes towards Minnesotan Muslims is a reaction to the settlement of the growing Somali population. What is your comment on this?
With an influx of new immigrants to any community there can be issues related to mutual adjustments. However, I disagree with the sentiment that adversarial attitudes towards Minnesota Muslims is a reaction to the settlement of the growing Somali population. Adversarial attitudes towards Muslims are rampant around the nation, not just in communities with large Somali or other new immigrant populations. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, home to the Mother Mosque of America has a community of Muslims who are the descendants of some of the first Muslim immigrants to America and they too are not immune to hate and bias crimes. Their Islamic Center has had swastikas painted on it, as well as other vandalism and hate crimes targeting Muslims. Adversarial attitudes exist because misconceptions of Islam are rampant, which leads to fear and hostility against Muslims.