On Tuesday, leaders in Minnesota’s Muslim community marshaled supporters and allies at the state Capitol to advance their agenda.
Like many groups with concerns — religious, political, whatever — Muslim leaders have organized “Muslim Day” for years. Tuesday’s event featured speeches and a rally in the Rotunda before dozens of supporters fanned out to buttonhole lawmakers to press their issues. Supporters also included members of ISAIAH, a politically active coalition of religious organizations often associated with liberal causes.
Here’s this year’s three-part legislative agenda, as stated by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota and speakers at the event:
Fear or hatred of Islam led to the Aug. 5 bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, said the mosque’s executive director, Mohamed Omar. The fact that three Illinois men have been charged, he said, underscores how social media comments — which can transcend geography — “need to be called out.”
In that vein, Asad Zaman, executive director of MAS, renewed his demand that two lawmakers apologize for sharing a Facebook post earlier this winter that claimed Muslims were being trained to “infiltrate” Republican precinct caucuses — a claim that was rebuked by GOP Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan and others.
Zaman said the two lawmakers who shared the post by a GOP activist, Reps. Kathy Lohmer, R-Stillwater, and Cindy Pugh, R-Chanhassen, have declined to meet with Muslim leaders. Neither could be reached for comment Tuesday.
MAS is also seeking meetings with leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate, and the group is pushing for lawmakers to undergo “Islamophobia training.”
RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS IN SCHOOLS
For at least a year, Muslim leaders have been pushing a plan to allow local school districts to consider Muslim holidays — as well as holidays from any religion — when setting the school calendar.
The “Religious Holiday Recognition Bill,” which leaves actual decision-making up to local school boards, gained little traction last year. Now, however, it’s gotten support from several Republicans, including Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, the bill’s chief sponsor, and Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud.
Both men spoke to the crowd in the Rotunda and drew rousing applause — some standing in ovation — from those attending when they announced their support for the measure.
Nonetheless, the bill’s outlook remains unclear.
As in years past, Muslim groups have made the third part of their platform an issue that is hardly Islam-specific: guns.
The groups support several gun control measures that appear unlikely to garner enough Republican support to reach Dayton’s desk. In addition the group’s platform says, “we ask out legislators to vote AGAINST arming teachers and school personnel.”
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