I hear you; I just haven’t heard enough

Farheen Hakeem, 30, the Green Party candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, pointed out the large number of children at the rally who attend Twin Cities-area schools and said, “We are as much a part of society here as anywhere else in the world. We demand to be heard.”

That was from one of the speakers at Sunday’s peaceful (and isn’t that front page news) Muslim rally in Minneapolis to protest the publication of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed. To their credit, many of those in attendance called for people of different faiths to live in peace, which might be construed as an apparent but gentle rebuke of the more violent Muslims who seem to have no quibble with the caricature they’re making of their “religion of peace”.

For Imani Jaafar-Mohammed, the sight of more than 1,000 Minnesota Muslims packed into a south Minneapolis gym Sunday for a noisy, emotional rally was exhilarating.

“We are living here among people who don’t know anything about us, and we have come together to educate them peacefully,” the 26-year-old activist and Woodbury attorney told the crowd, which erupted into passionate, in some quarters tearful, chants of “Peace! No more violence!” and “Allah-u-Akbar!” (God is great!)

OK, you’ve got my attention, educate me. In particular, tell me what your faith teaches about the character of God and whether grace, mercy and forgiveness are Godly traits mankind is supposed to emulate. Tell me if you believe it is easy to love those who love you, but more sacred to love your enemies or those who persecute you. And while you’re at it, answer these questions for me:

  1. What do you really think of the efforts this country and other western countries made on behalf of your Muslim brothers in Bosnia?
  2. If insulting God is a capital offense, why does God need men to carry it out?
  3. If this behavior is required by your religion, why do your brothers kill people who had nothing to do with that insult, in a part of the world that had no connection to the affront?
  4. Do you condemn or condone this behavior?
  5. Why do you rally now to protest those cartoons, but not earlier to protest the things done in the name of your faith?

Lest this be a one-sided conversation, permit me to offer some information that you might not know. For example, one of the speakers at the protest, Hassan Mohamud, an imam and director of the Islamic Law Institute at the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, had this to say:

“We want to show solidarity with every Muslim feeling pain,” Mohamud told the crowd. “We want the U.S. government to take a position on this matter.”

You see, the U.S. government already has taken a position on this matter, more than 200 years ago when our Constitution was written. It’s the reason why you were able to hold your protest last Sunday with the expectation that the police not only wouldn’t attack you, but that they’d protect you. One last question: could I expect the same respect in downtown Teheran, or Riyadh, or in Nigeria?

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