St. Constantine's isn't a mosque, but what if it was? (Photo: Ed Kohler) (
by Barbara J. Goodwin
Jun 14, 2012, 3:00 PM

We can’t give in to fear

People talk about the divisiveness in the Minnesota Legislature. And it has been very divisive in the past two years. I say it closely reflects the divisiveness in the population as a whole. What really concerns me is that the extremists on the right have been successfully selling fear. That sales job has prompted opposition to a religion having a church in one of our great cities comprised of equally great citizens – St. Anthony Village. The fear of allowing an Islamic Church is as logical as the fear of allowing a German Lutheran Church.  As if a person of German heritage is responsible for the horrors that happened in Europe well over a half-century ago as the actual evil people who planned and ordered millions of deaths. We’ve made this mistake before:  we the people forced Japanese citizens into camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and robbed them of their jobs, land, and livelihood.

The International Islamic School opened in Fridley in 1994. They are across the street from a well-known Catholic School – Totino Grace – and they have lived together as neighbors for many years without a problem. After 9/11, the Islamic School was so afraid of hate and fear that would hurt their children, that they held several community meetings to explain the true meaning of the Koran. As countless experts and devout Muslims have stated, there is nothing in the Koran that approves of or promotes the horrible violence and tragedy that occurred on that fateful day. Think about it: how many unfair and ugly wars have been waged by people who used their interpretation of Christianity to justify their actions when we all know that Jesus promoted peace?

How many of us have held beliefs that we are later embarrassed about or ashamed of? I know I have. Growing up in northeast Minneapolis, everyone I knew was prejudiced against anyone who wasn’t Polish. On the other side of Central Avenue, the same mentality existed but the preferable heritage was Italian. Oh, and how we discriminated against each other – and the majority of us were Catholic!

When I married my spouse 42 years ago, it was a tragedy for our parents and grandparents. Dave’s family was Baptist – in fact his dad was a Baptist minister. My family was Catholic. So very reluctantly, Dave’s dad married us in my dad’s home. My grandparents, who had pictures of the Pope on their living room wall, refused to come to our wedding at all. For three years, our families attempted to make us believe the things they did.  For three years, they would not accept us or our children. It hurt then and I can still feel it now because it showed me that their fears were more important than their love.

I have learned how to control my own fear of people who live and believe differently than I do. I was much more afraid of letting fear control my life than I was of people who were different than me. But it took time, patience, and understanding. I had to ask myself questions like, “What if I was in their shoes?” or “What if I left everything I knew and loved behind to escape persecution and the country of opportunity and freedom turned out to be a country ruled by fear?”

Many of our ancestors came to this wonderful country to escape religious persecution or discrimination of some kind. Our ancestors risked their lives to get to the “land of the brave and the home of the free.” We cannot let fear prevent us from remembering that this great country protects the freedom of religion for everybody.

Senator Barbara J. Goodwin represents Senate District 50 (Fridley, Columbia Heights, Hilltop, St. Anthony Village, New Brighton, Arden Hills) in the Minnesota Legislature

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