Idaho’s legislative leaders deserve credit for turning what could have been a purely anti-Islam event into an educational one.
On Thursday, law enforcement officials and refugee resettlement and faith leaders will hold a presentation on Islamic issues in one area of the Capitol to balance expected fear-mongering from two speakers in the auditorium.
Initially, two anti-Islam speakers reserved the auditorium and invited lawmakers to attend. If history is any judge, speakers Shahram Hadian, a Chattaroy-based pastor and former Muslim, and Christopher Holton, vice president of the Center for Security Policy, a fear-peddling group, will perform their “culture of death” routine, while trying to persuade lawmakers that terrorist cells are preparing to spring Islam-based Shariah law on Idaho.
Yes, they believe it’s possible for Muslims to succeed in an area where many Christians have failed: imposing religiously based laws despite the U.S. Constitution. It’s preposterous, but the fear was widespread enough to force a special legislative session on Idaho’s sovereignty.
Hadian took credit for that, after he planted the seed during a March 26 presentation speech at the Capitol in which he urged rejection of a bill designed to bring Idaho’s child support enforcement system into federal compliance. Hadian claimed this could subject Idaho to international and Shariah laws.
Sure enough, on the final day of the legislative session, the bill died in the House Judiciary and Rules Committee. The issue was eventually resolved in a special session.
This time, legislative leaders seem wary of an anti-Islam presentation. President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he won’t be attending “based on the gentleman’s talk last year.” Since then, Hill has taken steps to educate himself by visiting a refugee resettlement program in Twin Falls and meeting with U.S. Homeland Security officials.
This is the course more officials, and more Americans, would be wise to take. It’s encouraging that some are doing so.
On Jan. 2, Spokane’s Islamic Center held an open house, and a standing-room-only crowd attended. Faith leaders fielded respectful questions on marriage, women’s rights, religious clothing and the Quran, according to an article by Lindsey Treffry, a Spokesman-Review copy editor and page designer, writing for Spokane FAVS, a website dedicated to faith and ethics in the community.
Local residents with questions about Islamic faith and culture will get another chance on Jan. 19 at 6 p.m., when the mosque holds an event in conjunction with the “Meet the Neighbors” series sponsored by the Spokane Interfaith Council.
Americans are understandably jittery after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, and anti-Muslim activity has increased. In response, Muslim leaders have conducted more community outreach to explain their religion and culture.
Take them up on their offer. Don’t let fear stand in the way of understanding.
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