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A Couple Perspectives on Islam in Minnesota

September 24, 2010

So I came across the following Minnesota-related posts a couple weeks back and I’ve been debating whether I actually wanted to share or not. I also happened to be in Lower Manhattan on my way to a bar on September 11th, and I had the very frustrating experience of walking past a bunch of folks with signs that said a whole lot of angry and self-righteous things (as many anti-mosque protesters as anti-anti-mosque protesters).

I’m not going to wade into the whole morass of my personal feelings on the issue – mostly because I don’t feel like they’re relevant to anything – but I thought that it might be interesting to share a couple of links that refer to similar sentiments at the MN State Fair this year.

Specifically – the Minnesotan branch of an organization called the Islamic Circle of North America was doing some outreach at the State Fair this year, to widely different reactions.

On one hand we have a pretty straight-forward explanation of a group that’s trying to raise awareness about Islam and promote inter-cultural tolerance.

Despite the smells of fried dough and roasted meat wafting from the Minnesota State Fair, Salim and Zuleyha Ozonder were focused on the people who were leaving, not the food or festivities beckoning from across the street.
Each time a new wave of people exited, the young Minneapolis residents — who hadn’t eaten all day — tried to press into their hands a small, glossy card that read “Islam Explained” on one side. On the other, it had about 180 words of background on a religion whose adherents fear is being misunderstood by too many Americans as violent and depraved.
“You just want people to take the card, spend a minute reading it and say, ‘Oh. They’re not terrorists,’” said 27-year-old Zuleyha. She and her husband, like other Muslims, were fasting during daylight hours for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. [Full Article Here]

Despite the incredibly impressive feat of fasting when you’re at the freaking state fair – some folks were less impressed – specifically the infamous conservative bloggers over at PowerLine:

In other State Fair news, AP reporter Patrick Condon catches the Islamic Circle of North America in the act of recruiting at the fair. Condon doesn’t present the ICNA activity as recruitment. He presents it (as you might guess) as something benign. Something kinda cute. But you can get the picture from his article.

What the heck is the ICNA? Condon doesn’t bother to explain to readers what it is. If the ICNA had its way, however, it is highly likely that the Minnesota State Fair would be among the many victims of its strictures.

Powerline then directs us to this further elucidation of the ICNA’s sinister aims, which helpfully informs us that:

[I]nternal ICNA records describe a long-term campaign to change the country. In a 2003 introductory manual provided to potential members of its youth group, youth leader Azeem Khan wrote that the purpose of the group was “educating, training, and developing the Muslim youth to be Islamic workers for Iqamat-ad-Deen in North America.” Khan then defined Iqamat-ad-Deen as “the Establishment of Islam in its totality,” so that “He [Allah] may make it prevalent over all religions” in North America.

ICNA’s charter goes into even more detail. It explains that ICNA wants Islam to be the dominant force in all spheres of life, including the political and economic, with the practical realization of this form of Islamic rule in an Islamic Caliphate

Personally I find this latter report pretty sensationalist and tenuous. Note that they wind up having to quote a ‘youth leader’ to find something that they can sorta-connect to a vaguely sinister aim (though notably less ominous than any Christian organization that casually references the division of the wheat from the chaff in lovely apocalyptic scenarios).

Anyway – as I said, I don’t want to get into it too much, but I thought this was a pretty interesting divergence of perspective among Minnesotans’ understanding of Islam in the US. I’m much more likely to try to judge individuals by their interpersonal behavior and tolerance than by what organizations or religious institutions they belong to – and I hope that that’s a pretty widely shared Minnesotan trait.

On a lighter note – somebody made this awesome map of Minneapolis out of neighborhood names!
Yay for Tangletown!
(hat tip to Sam!)

And don’t forget Minnesota Monthly next Friday October 1st!!!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Nazeefa permalink
    January 11, 2011 4:48 am

    “Personally I find this latter report pretty sensationalist and tenuous. Note that they wind up having to quote a ‘youth leader’ to find something that they can sorta-connect to a vaguely sinister aim (though notably less ominous than any Christian organization that casually references the division of the wheat from the chaff in lovely apocalyptic scenarios).” – I don’t think you read that article all the way through. They quote all kinds of leaders of the group, in that article and 5 more like it. It’s pretty obvious that ICNA is bad news, and that real moderate Muslims (like myself) reject it.

    Check out this article – http://www.investigativeproject.org/1577/icnas-search-for-radicalism-should-start-within (if you don’t believe the IPT article, read the original ICNA article telling kids to fight in Pakistan by following the example of Abu Adam, a convert who died fighting for Kashmiri militants – http://www.investigativeproject.org/documents/misc/348.pdf).

    Muslims are proud that Americans support our mainstream groups. Most mainstream groups, like ISNA and MPAC, are good. But some like ICNA and MAS, only want to convert non-Muslims for Iqamat-ud-Deen and have sent some of our young brothers to die in Jihad. When the facts are in front of you, like in the article that you dismissed, you aren’t doing a service to our community by ignoring them. ICNA does do some good things, but they also teach their members hate, which is not consistent with the Islam I know.

    • jayackley permalink*
      January 11, 2011 2:00 pm

      I really appreciate your thoughtful comment – looking back on this now I’m not particularly pleased with the tone I took on a topic that i’m incredibly unfamiliar with. I think I was mostly just feeling incredibly frustrated by the hullabaloo about Park 51 that I was much more apt to give the muslim group the benefit of the doubt.

      It’s also incredibly tough for me to sort out fact from slander in a lot of online resources, especially around topics that engender a lot of misplaced anger.

      thanks again for posting

      • Nazeefa permalink
        January 11, 2011 4:06 pm

        Thank you so much Jay. I’m sorry if I sounded a bit harsh there too. The Park 51 controversy angers a lot of us, so I understand where you are coming from.

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