©2012 Khalid Bendib,www.OtherWords.org
Darul Arqam is a small school in the City of Blaine designed to teach Muslim children to memorize the Quran – the central religious text of the Islamic faith and believed to be the verbatim word of God, whom Muslims call Allah. That, it turns out, is one heck of a lot of memorization – nearly 600 pages – 114 chapters. Quran (or Qu’ran, or Koran, if you wish) actually means “recite” and it’s the religious duty of Muslims to recite the word of Allah at will.
[By the way, it may surprise readers to know that much of the Quran incorporates some of the same Old Testament scripture assumed by Christians and Jews to be the word of their God: From Wikipedia: “…Muslims regard the Quran as the main miracle of Muhammad, the proof of his prophethood and the culmination of a series of divine messages that started with the messages revealed to Adam, regarded in Islam as the first prophet, and continued with the Scrolls of Abraham (Suhuf Ibrahim), the Tawrat (Torah) of Moses, the Zabur(Tehillim or Psalms) of David, and the Injil (Gospels) of Jesus. – Wikipedia]
All this to say that it seems a simple matter to approve a proposal to establish a school that rarely teaches to more than 18 or 20 students at a crack. And, certainly no threat to any community. But, wait…xenophobia reigns!
Although, according to Minnesota CAIR, or the Council on American Islamic Relations, …the City of Blaine Planning Commission voted unanimously in June to approve Darul Arqam’s proposal, some 25 people attending the Blaine Planning Commission meeting expressed opposition to the school:
· Some neighbors submitted a petition with 80 signatures from approximately 50 houses in the neighborhood. One speaker stated that only 3 houses did not sign the petition.
· Instead of calling it by its name or referring to it as a school in both the petition and Planning Commission meeting, opponents referred to it as a “training center.” (for what – terrorism? Well, certainly!)
· The opposition questioned where the organization’s funds are coming from:
o “I also am wondering...it concerns me that...they are offering this and targeting this for children, economically challenged families and a lot of their funding is donations. I don't know the ins and outs of how their organization is structured but I have some concerns about that, about how they are going to fund this.”
· Fear was rampant:
o “My wife's been just terrified that somebody is going to grab her child.”
o “I don't know who these people are but they have no business coming into the end of my block. Obviously, I just found out two days ago that there is a Muslim community that wants to teach Muslim to their people and they say they're not going to be a ‘religious organization.’ It is a religious organization, it's a church. That' my personal feelings.”
o “We don't want them in our community.”
This is the fifth land use opposition case involving Muslims in Minnesota within the past two years. A week later, the City Council voted 5-0 to approve the school..
If that were a completely isolated example, we’d not bother, but these incidents, as well as more violent reactions, fed by many news media, especially rightwing cable news companies or mainstream outlets who should know better, but, nevertheless, prey on such fears for profit and political expediency, have multiplied at the local and national level since 9/11.
The hysteria surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001, have only been reinforced by other events in which those involved who consider themselves Muslim – or are “suspected” of being so – are hoisted on the petard of journalism’s voracious appetite for titillation and added to the cumulative evidence that “those people” have infiltrated our culture at every level and are prepared to destroy the American Way of Life – whatever that is. Once the media gets hold of a story, the public extrapolates localized facts into badly distorted generalizations about a nation at war with The Other. Witness the ripple effect of the Boston Marathon bombings and the deranged Army major who most people claim was driven to his violent acts against fellow officers by his Islamic conviction.
What drives our need to drag everyone who looks and worships like others into a war of nerves and rejection when just one of them has been adjudged guilty of a crime, especially assaultive behavior? Why has this country come to this in the last decade: that because of the religious fervor seemingly behind the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center and the assumption that religious fundamentalism elsewhere is somehow less acceptable than the same demonstrated among evangelists here and that all of Islam is dedicated irrevocably to our cultural and political destruction, not to mention murders in our beds?
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and MICHELLE ALIMORADI talk with representatives of our local Muslim communities (yes, that’s plural) and their advocates to get their sense of what they’re up against and how, like other groups of color and vilified minorities, they are forced to cope with the expressed fears – subtle and not so – as Islamic refugees and immigrants settle our area in larger and larger numbers. These include Somalis and other East Africans, Indians, Arabs, Iranians/Persians, Palestinians, Turks, Iraqis, Pakistanis, Afghans and Indonesians, among others.