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Community View | Kingman’s interfaith dialogue has brought more peace to the community

For someone who had legally immigrated to this "land of the free" 47 years ago and has lived in Kingman since 1977, I find it surprising that a debate would now begin about the future of Muslims in America.

To his credit or discredit, a British comedian has succeeded in stirring up a debate which has pitched minority views of hate, racism and islamophobia. But to their credit, a huge silent majority of Kingmanites have come forward in support of our small muslim community.

The efforts by the mayor and members of Kingman City Council, police and sheriff's office, the interfaith community, its leaders and the progressive alliance has played a very constructive role in dissipating this controversy.

For those of you who don't know the historical perspective, following is quoted from a July 30, 2018 article in by Craig Considine:

The Founding Fathers “deliberated this question in 1788 during the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in North Carolina. One speaker during the convention, William Lancaster, spoke about what would happen when, a few centuries down the road, a Muslim would be elected to the highest office in the land, the office of the presidency of the United States. Lancaster told his peers that they needed to remember to ‘form a government for millions not yet in existence.’ He stressed that in the centuries to come, a U.S. citizen of any religious background should be able to serve as president. Lancaster specifically mentions ‘Papists’ (an 18th-century term used to identify Catholics) and ‘Mahometans,’ or Muslims, in his defense. Lancaster’s views on who could or could not occupy the highest political office in the United States prevailed. The U.S. Constitution today does not exclude Muslims or members of any other religious faith or background from serving as president. Indeed, the Founding Fathers were fully prepared to make a place for both the Islamic faith and Muslims in the new nation.

The first U.S. president, George Washington, envisioned Muslims as part of U.S. society. Writing as president in March 1784, he stated in a letter that future U.S. citizens ‘may be of Asia, Africa, or Europe. They may be Mahometans (Muslims), Jews, or Christians of any Sect, or they may be atheists.’ In 1783, he echoed these sentiments in a letter to Irish Catholic immigrants living in New York City, which is clear evidence of his welcoming attitude toward Muslims. Catholics, at that time, had few legal protections in any state and had no right to hold political office in New York. In a show of solidarity, Washington insisted that the United States is ‘open to receive … the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations and Religions; whom we shall welcome to participation of all our rights and privileges.’ Moreover, his personal correspondence in December 1789 with Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, the Sultan of Morocco, revealed a president assuring a foreign Muslim ruler that the U.S. government would ‘not cease to promote every measure that may conduce to the friendship and harmony which so happily subsist between [us].’”

My perspective is that American Indians were originally the only inhabitants of this country. Then came the Europeans who brought in several millions of Asian, African and South American slaves. Some Chinese, Japanese and East Indians started immigrating to this country a couple of centuries ago. But the major Asian and Middle Eastern immigration is a recent phenomenon which started after the 1965 passage of the Civil Rights Act.

As a result, the Muslims now constitute approximately 1-2 percent of the population of this great country. The Latino migration started after the war with Mexico and has continued. I believe Muslims immigrants, like the rest of them, have contributed a great deal to this country.

You may recall that following the Pearl Harbor attack that pulled our country into World War II, many Japanese immigrants were interned in various camps in the western states, and they remained there until the war was over. But nothing like that happened to the Muslim immigrants following the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

President George W. Bush was adamant that his War on Terror was not against Islam. So there was no extreme action like what the Japanese went through.

I recall that after 9/11 a few young men fired a few bullets at the local mosque, but the mayor and chief of police were very prompt at controlling such incidents.

After 9/11, they had a gathering of many local citizens at the mosque and advised the public that our Muslim community had nothing to do with 9/11.

Since that time, interfaith dialogue has progressed and has become a regular feature of this community. Compared to many other places, Kingman and Mohave County are much more peaceful communities, and I am sure that we are not going to heed another agitator.

Stay blessed. Peace in the world.

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