Islamaphobia in Central MN

Central Minnesotans, I don’t want you to be uninformed about the Islamophobia that is happening right here in your neighborhoods.

What is Islamophobia? Let’s do a quick word study.

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An article that ran in The Atlantic last year (written by Tanya Basu) tells us that “some chart the popularization of the term ‘Islamophobia’ back to a series of studies in the 1990s by the Runnymede Trust.” Basu spoke with Robin Richardson, an editor of the Runnymede studies, who said that the term was meant to be used as “a shorthand way of referring to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims—and, therefore, dread or hatred of Islam.”

 

So, are there currently folks in our community who have a “fear or dislike of all or most Muslims”? Do we have neighbors that “dread or hate Islam”? Yes and yes.

Is it everybody? No. Is it most people? I don’t think so.

Is it worth talking about? You betcha.

Why? Isn’t it just a small, vocal group, talking amongst themselves that aren’t REALLY going to do anything extreme about it? Man, I hope so. However, after witnessing a few community meetings over the last couple of weeks, I’m not so sure.

Statements made at local community meetings last week

“Somali refugees rape and kill each other. So, the ones that make it to refugee camps, don’t you think they are the ones that have won those battles? And then, those same refugees are coming to our country.”

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by: Political Cartoonist Carlos Latuff

“Obviously, he’s a terrorist – or at least he’s just dressing like one.”

“A moderate Muslim is just someone who hasn’t killed anyone yet.”

“They may go back (to Somalia)….and hopefully they do!”

“We have to start screaming about this stuff. I mean, do you love your kids or not?”

“Jesus didn’t enable pagans, so I’m not. I’m not opening my door to just anybody.”

“We have to stop being MN nice.”

“The Qur’an says ‘when you meet an unbeliever, smite their necks’. Well, it’s my job to put a bullet in their head.”

Sit with those for a minute. Especially that last one. A man in our community said this to 2 other men that then laughed and talked about the guns they keep in their trucks and the knives they carry in their pockets.

When did it become funny or at all acceptable to talk about violence against another human being?

When you read of this reality in our community, my hope is that you will come to an understanding that silence and indifference is not an option.

What can you do?

When a co-worker makes a joke about a Somali person, don’t laugh. Also, don’t walk away. Say something to him. Maybe it’s as simple as commenting with a deadpan “OUCH”. Maybe it’s saying “That’s not OK and it makes me uncomfortable.” If he continues, perhaps it’s time to talk with your supervisor about his behavior.

When a friend posts an anti-Muslim sentiment or article on Facebook, don’t ignore it. Instead, message her and tell her that you found that offensive. Reach out to her and tell her about your Muslim co-worker that you consider a friend. Paste a link to this article as a comment on her status and tell her that Islamophobia in your town is at a dangerous level.

When your parents talk about how everything would just be better if “they” would assimilate, don’t stay silent to “keep the peace”.  Tell them that one main problem is the language barrier and community programs are currently looking for more English language teachers (especially bilingual ones!).  Share what other #unitecloud folks are saying to remind us that, unless we are of Native American heritage, we all were immigrants at one time. Talk about the Muslim friends their grandkids have at school and how the reality of the world they are growing up in now is a global society.

Bottom line:

When someone thinks the next best step is to kill a Muslim, indifference is no longer an option. Click To Tweet
About the Author

Natalie Ringsmuth

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Natalie grew up in Central Minnesota and received her Music Education degree from Concordia College in Moorhead. She taught middle school choir in Georgia and worked in the church sector for over a decade. She now works as a legal assistant at Tripiciano Immigration Law, a trainer with the CARE (Community Anti-Racism Education) Team at SCSU (St Cloud State University), and as Founder and Director of #unitecloud, a non-profit working to reduce racial, religious, and cultural tensions in Central MN. She is a member of the Community Impact Team at United Way of Central MN and is a member of the St Cloud District 742 school board. In her spare time (haha) she loves to spend time with her husband and 3 children.