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Muslim worshipers detail discovery of hate message at Spokane center

Ramadan prayers will continue at the Bosnia Herzegovina Heritage Association through July 17, following the discovery of the message "Death to Islam" spray painted on the building's exterior this weekend.

"We did take a few days off, while the dust settled, so to speak," said Admir Rasic, a member of the Spokane Bosnian and Muslim communities who was present at the club, along with about 25 other people, on July 4 when the graffiti was discovered. "We are back here, and we invite the whole community. Everyone is welcome here."

Spokane Police said Thursday the case had been assigned to its Joint Terrorism Task Force, and that photographs of the message were taken by investigators. Rasic said the message was written between 10:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on the building, which also serves as a warehouse. The club and the Washington Council on American-Islamic Relations is asking anyone with information to contact the FBI field office in Seattle by dialing (206) 622-0460.

The council issued a formal letter to U.S. District Attorney Mike Ormsby on Tuesday asking for federal involvement in the case. The group says the hate speech "fits a pattern of increased targeting of person s and property associated with Islam and the American Muslim Community."

But the message at a news conference held at the center Thursday morning was one of inclusion. Several leaders of area faith groups spoke, representing the Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic and Baptist faiths. All condemned the message of the graffiti and said it was important for Christians, Muslims and members of all religions to support each other against hate.

"We are together in our love for God, and our love for our neighbor, and we must keep that up," said the Rev. Martin Wells, bishop of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Imam Yasser Shahin visited the Bosnian center to break his Ramadan fast on July 4, he said. It was the only time he'd visited the center during the holy month because of his obligations at the Spokane Islamic Center. Shahin said he felt guilt that his appearance, with his wife, in traditional Muslim garb may have incited the spray painted message.

Admir Rasic's wife, Azra, said the community and law enforcement needs to send a clear message that this speech won't be tolerated.

"It really shook you," Azra Rasic said of seeing the graffiti, which has since been covered by the landlord. "I worried for my daughter, and for her future."

Ex-Muslim pastor stokes fear and controversy in Idaho

After listening to Shahram Hadian speak for over an hour about Islam as a rising menace in America, Alton Howell stepped outside the log-built community hall in Sandpoint and quickly called a colleague, writes S-R reporter Scott Maben. “It scared the living daylights out of me,” the Careywood farmer spoke into his phone.

Howell, a leader in the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, said in an interview that he worries young people are being “indoctrinated” to Islam and that followers already have a foothold in parts of the Northwest. “I think that we better pay attention,” he said. “The city of Seattle, that part of Washington, is just shotgun full of Muslims.”

If alarm and fear are the reactions Hadian strives to produce in his audiences, the Spokane-area Christian pastor is having some success. And not just with community groups like last month’s Sandpoint meeting hosted by a group of Republican women. Hadian, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, also outlined his anti-Islam views for a group of conservative legislators in Boise earlier this year, taking the opportunity to voice his concerns about a Senate bill to keep Idaho in compliance with the federal child support program. A House committee tabled that legislation in the waning hours of the legislative session, thrusting the state into national headlines and leading the governor to call lawmakers back into session Monday to deflect a looming crisis in child support payments. You can read Maben’s full story here in today’s Spokesman-Review.

Two different views of Islam in Idaho…

More than 100 people gathered at the Sandpoint Community Hall this morning to hear anti-Islam speaker Shahram Hadian speak, reports Melissa Davlin of Idaho Public Television; Hadian, a Christian pastor from Chattaroy, Wash. and former Muslim, downplayed his role in helping kill child support enforcement legislation in Idaho and instead focused on his criticisms of Islam, which he claimed is a “a culture of death” that, among other things, he said requires submission and teaches its followers that martyrdom is the only way to salvation. He also had plenty of scorn to heap on the news media.

Outside, a group of protesters held signs with slogans including “Stand up for Tolerance and Child Welfare,” “I choose children over fear” and “Idaho’s kids need food, not ideology.” You can read Davlin’s full post here.

Meanwhile, more than 400 miles to the south, I attended a much different event this evening: A “peace feast” at a Boise restaurant at which an equal number of Idaho Muslims and non-Muslims shared dinner and a low-key presentation about Islam. Laura Armstrong, a member of the pastoral staff at a local Christian church, Cole Community Church, praised the “building of bridges and understanding.” At this gathering, too, concerns were raised about the news media and its coverage of Islam.

John Landis, a financial executive who converted to Islam three years ago, shared some information about Boise’s Islamic community. “It’s very ethnically diverse, it’s culturally diverse,” he said. “We are the melting pot of the melting pot.” The community includes people from India, Bosnia, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Syria, the United States and elsewhere.

Zawar Qazi, president of the Islamic Center of Boise, said the center is Sunni in practice but welcomes all Muslims to pray together. The area also has a couple of Shia mosques, he said. An engineer at Micron who’s originally from Pakistan, Qazi said he’s never been harassed over his religion in Idaho. Others at the dinner were business owners, students, IT people, marketers, homemakers. They were Muslim, Christian, Jewish and otherwise.

Landis presented a brief slide show about Islam, stressing its reverence for the sanctity of life, and prohibitions on violence other than in self defense. A diner in the restaurant, who wasn’t part of the gathering, asked the first question when Landis opened it up for Q-and-A, vociferously citing ISIS and its atrocities. “They are not Muslims – they are criminals,” responded a member of the group. “They call themselves Muslims.”

Later, as the dinner wrapped up, Nick Armstrong, who had collected everyone’s individual payments for dinner at the start, had an announcement: Three Saudi Arabian students who had been quietly dining in the back of the restaurant during the presentation had pulled him aside as they left, and told him how impressed they were that the group, Muslims and non-Muslims, was learning together. One of the young men insisted on paying for everyone’s meal – 20 people. So Armstrong passed back out everyone’s payments.    

What would you do?

Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a woman in Sudan, is sentenced to death because she refuses to renounce her Christian faith – and claim Islam as her faith. Abandoning or criticizing Islam is punishable by death.

Ibrahim is pregnant and has a 20-month-old son. She was given three days to change her mind and renounce her Christian beliefs. She did not, so she remains locked up – with her son. Her attorney is appealing the sentence.

What would you do?

(S-R archive photo: Displaced people who fled the fighting between government and rebel forces in Bor, prepare to sleep in the open at night in the town of Awerial, South Sudan Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014.)

Acronym for Islamic…

Good morning, Netizens…

Don’t you just love acronyms? Today’s David Horsey cartoon takes us in a direction which, perhaps, our fearless leaders probably do not want to go, but it seems accurate. Finding the acronym for the word “Islamic” cannot be that difficult, but making it fit the existing conditions in Iran, we’ll, that may be subject to public opinion.

Viewed from our side of the globe, most people look at the Mullahs with a jaundiced eye, perhaps, but to most Iran residents, the byword is “Mullahs rock, dude!

Of course, I always ask the question: which is it? Can you imagine the head of Iran’s mullahs meeting in the White House with Obama? How about a tour group of Mullahs traveling through the United States in a tour bus? Now apply the acronym of your choice to the word “Islamic”.

Then we’ll decide what to do when or if that ever happens. Mullahs on West Second Avenue? Sure, why not!