I was the first to post about the controversy in North Dakota’s state House yesterday concerning some protests over a Muslim leader delivering that day’s invocation (he ended up skipping the House and reading it to the Senate instead). Today, to bring the story full circle, I had on Rep. Dwight Kiefert (R-Valley City) and Jaylani Hussein of the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on Islamic-American Relations.
It was a very good discussion. Some passionate calls. Rep. Kiefert apologized for the controversy saying it was never his intent to offend anyone. Hussein accepted the apology and said that we need to keep talking to one another and find understanding.
I will say there are a couple of areas where I was a little frustrated with both of the guests.
With Kiefert, I feel like he could have done more to acknowledge that it wasn’t just about the invocation taking place on Ash Wednesday. That may have been the genesis for his decision to speak up, but the people on the NDGOP District 24 Facebook page were offended that a Muslim would even address the Legislature. That’s not right, and it’s something Republicans should address. It’s understandable to question if Ash Wednesday is the right day for a Muslim to deliver the invocation. It’s not at all understandable for people to oppose Muslims addressing the Legislature at all.
North Dakota has long had a Muslim population. They are represented by the Legislature as well.
By the way, the apology Rep. Kiefert kept saying is on the District 24 Republican’s Facebook page is not there. I’m not sure where it’s been posted, but I can’t find it.
On Hussein’s part, he kept insisting that ISIS and other terror groups have “nothing to do” with Islam. I think the point he was trying to make is that the strain of Islam groups like ISIS adhere to isn’t what most Muslims practice. That’s a fair point, but we shouldn’t pretend as though a fundamentalist sort of Islam isn’t the justification those monsters use for their murder and carnage.
Graeme Wood has an excellent article in The Atlantic this month about this very topic. “We are misled…by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature,” he writes. “There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.”
In other words, ISIS is enforcing through mayhem and murder strict adherence to the original 7th century strictures of Islam.
It’s self-serving in the extreme for someone like Mr. Hussein to claim, then, that Isis has nothing to do with Islam. It has a great deal to do with Islam.
I honestly look forward to this controversy being over. It was embarrassing for the state House of Representatives, it was embarrassing for Republicans, and it was embarrassing for our state. I hope that Dr. Koleilat can return to the House chamber and be welcomed there for an invocation after which we can move on with a better sort of understanding.