The Spokane Interfaith Council has invited Idaho Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, to a “Meet the Neighbors” event at the Spokane Islamic Center in January, in response to her legislative newsletter calling for a special session of the Idaho Legislature on refugee issues and declaring that Muslim refugees constitute an “invasion of our country.” I wrote about Scott’s call in my Sunday column here.
Skyler Oberst, president of the council, told Scott he was issuing the invitation “knowing your commitment to our country and our extended community in the Inland Northwest.” He wrote, “This event is designed to provide community leaders accurate and respectful information about the people they serve and live alongside, as well as highlight the rich history of our area’s religious communities. And what a rich history to share!”
Oberst then highlighted the stories of some of the estimated 5,000 American Muslims living in the Inland Northwest. “Most are born or raised as U.S. citizens,” he wrote. “They are upstanding citizens and exemplify the best of America. Like millions of American Muslims nationwide, they share the same American values and freedoms that we all cherish, knowing that we are all in this together, and they participate actively in mainstream society, and I look forward to introducing many more of them to you during your visit.” He pointed to Muslim area residents who are teachers, prosecutors, members of the military, nurses, pharmacists, business people and more.
Scott didn’t immediately return a reporter’s call about the invitation and whether or not she plans to attend the event. It is set for Jan. 20, 2016, when Scott will be in Boise for the legislative session, but Oberst offered to pay for her travel and hotel accommodations to attend. “Already, we have had Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich as well as staff from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers RSVP,” Oberst wrote. “I’d love you to be a part of building bridges of trust and understanding in the Inland Northwest.” You can see the full letter here.
Oberst, who is a member of the Spokane city Human Rights Commission, said, “We at the Interfaith Council have really been noticing a need for religious literacy, as well as bridge-building in the community. There seems to be a lot of disinformation and misinformation out there.” A Christian, he said, “We’re people of all faiths.” He said he hasn’t yet had any response from Scott, but is looking forward to working with her or her staff to bring her to the event.
It will highlight “specifically how long different religious communities have been here in the Inland Northwest, and their specific contributions,” Oberst said. “There’s so many wonderful people here, and I can’t wait for her to meet them, because they’ve enriched my life and the life of the entire community here in Spokane, so I can’t wait for her to have the same blessing.”