Oct 23 2014

Oklahoma in Reverse, East Tennessee Tea Party Attends Muslim Hosted ISIS Townhall

M4L_(3_stars)By Will Coley

Today many of us are overwhelmed, the current sustained level of fear, and outrage expressed around the country. From hatefests in Oklahoma, and Utah, to the very real violence in the Middle East, many Muslims are suffering from outrage fatigue.

All the more reason when something good comes across the radar, to bring it to the attention of as many people as possible. Now before everyone pulls out the drums, and gets ready for a parade. There are some very real issues that are addressed in the following letter that was posted about 10 hours ago by the Knoxville Tea Party, in Knoxville Tennessee.

I want readers to pay particular attention one line, where community members ask if attempting to contact radio shows and media would make a difference at affecting public perception and fears. According to the author of this letter, this was rebuffed a pointless venture, a waste of time.

The very fact that this letter exists is a shining example that, that statement is categorically false. The truth is we need to do more, but not in the way that you think. A voice on a radio show, or a face on the news is no substitute for personal interaction. Hold more events, contact local churches and hold interfaith fasting and prayer events for victims of violence, be PROACTIVE, and INVITE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT NOT LIKE YOU!!!! You don’t make new allies, or change minds by always back patting and talking to people who already like or agree with you.

Please enjoy the letter:

We hear about meetings and get invited to meetings from all sorts of groups. We’ve gone to Move On.org meetings, libertarian meetings, town halls from all spectrums. You have to know what others are saying before you can agree or battle with them. So when sone if our members heard of a town hall held at the local muslim center to discuss ISIS- they went. I will shortly post the thoughtful letter written to us to describe the experience. And though I am troubled by some of it- I am also hopeful in other parts. This is not posted to express annimousity or solidarity for that group. Only to inform OUR group of what was heard. Like Fox says- we report, you decide.
The Crisis of Isis

There is so much going on today that keeps us alarmed. Scandals within this administration are becoming too difficult to enumerate. Wars and threats of wars are too difficult to keep up with as well. Sometimes I question why people are not up in arms, is anyone paying attention? With Ebola, scandals and wars, it is overwhelming. I am no expert on any of these serious issues, I am just an average guy trying to keep up, so when I was asked to attend a meeting entitled, “The Crisis of Isis” at the local Islamic school, Annoor Academy, I was intrigued but felt under-qualified, and even a little apprehensive to represent the TEA Party.
With that said, I reflected on my own views of religion and the role it has played in war. Recalling that Christianity is not without sin (pun intended), I thought that it would be very refreshing to see if the Islamic community was actually going to denounce the atrocities of ISIS. I had no idea what to expect but decided to go with an open mind and learn.
I arrived at the meeting on a Sunday evening and I was very impressed with the school. I was greeted by a man, who very kindly informed me that the place I had chosen to sit was the women’s side. Embarrassed, I quickly got up and moved across the room, thanking the man for his quiet correction. As I looked around the room, it was evident that I was the ethnic minority. Of the 40 plus people in the room there were maybe 4 or 5 that were not obviously of a Muslim faith. The women all had the traditional hijab scarves. The men mostly had full beards, and some even wore robes. The man who gently corrected me was an engineer from Oakridge and was very hospitable.
When the meeting finally got started, I was looking at a panel of 3 speakers; some were leaders in the community another was from Atlanta, she had traveled up just for this meeting. It started off with an Islamic prayer song (I am sure there is a better name for this, but I do not know what it is actually called). There was a lot of religious formality, mixing Arabic and English, making it difficult for me to follow. I was definitely feeling out of my element. I prayed to my Go d while they prayed to theirs. As the meeting went on I did come to realize that these people of faith probably feel out of place as I did, but they feel it every day in our Judeo Christian culture. I also began to feel for them as many of them have family members that are in the middle of this crisis. Some even expressed guilt that they live here out of harm’s way, even guilt that their tax dollars were funding wars that were killing people of Islamic faith. There was a lot of talk about the atrocities of other religions and the public’s chant for apologies from the Islamic community, as if they were responsible for the violence. I believe the leaders struck a balance between denouncing ISIS, and not allowing society to pressure them into feeling responsible; which of course they are not, but sadly there are people who demonize.
There were lots of questions from the audience; many people in attendance have had younger Muslims express interests in joining ISIS as if they are the freedom fighters of the Middle East. Some even suggesting that they are the Caliphate. It was in my opinion the singular purpose of the meeting to declare that ISIS was a manipulator, a perverter of their religion, and was certainly not a Caliphate. It was what I had hoped to hear. The leaders of the meeting did denounce the group, but seemed reluctant to be too public about it for fear of being perceived as apologetic or somehow culpable. There was talk about the virtues of liberty and freedom here in America, but there were also leaders quoting Cornell West, a prominent member of the Democratic Socialists of America. Several people asked about calling into radio talk shows to help quell public opinion of those that practice Islam here in America. The panel dismissed this idea, saying that those people would not let them on or if they did, they would not be fair with them. Furthermore, their audiences were of a certain type that could not be persuaded. I disagreed in my head and bit my tongue. Overall, I was impressed with the meeting and the courage it takes to address such issues. I would like to think the next time we have a Westboro Baptist or some group of Christians bombing abortion clinics that the Christian community would come together in the same fashion, perhaps an even stronger one.
As the meeting concluded, I went to the only person I knew in the room prior to my arrival. He had served as the moderator, and I knew him from work, but had not seen him in years. I thanked him for the meeting and asked him what his thoughts were. He was more direct and clear than any of the panelists had been. Perhaps it was because he knew me or maybe because it was because it was one on one. Whatever it was this is in essence what he said. ISIS was not Islamic they are political and wish to seize power. He also told me that as a group Islamic people supported George Bush and felt betrayed. Then they supported Obama and now feel betrayed. I was quick to agree with him on that point and confessed I trust neither the republicans nor democrats. I told him I was a libertarian. He went on to say that TEA Party groups were the only organizations that had stood with the Islamic community in the past. I left proud of the many accomplishments our TEA Party has been a part of and the TEA Party in general. I pray that the TEA Party will have many more victories so that we can whittle down that list of worries in my first paragraph.

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