The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

30 March 2007

Talk Radio, Minnesota, Blogs, Muslims


Talk Radio, Blogs Blamed For Muslim Tensions

*** ELSEWHERE: fresh updates at SaveWRKO ***

Where there's hatred, divisive rhetoric and intolerance in this country, talk radio and the blogosphere surely must be the cause, right?

In a report on tensions between Muslims and others in the "tolerant" haven of Minnesota, talk hosts and bloggers predictably take a hit. Stop us if you've heard this one before:

Muslims, culture clash in Minnesota

By Curt Brown

(Star- Tribune)

MINNEAPOLIS - Munira Omar applied for a cashier job at Target last week but balked when they called her back for an interview. Sure, she needs the money to help pay for college next year. But the Minneapolis teenager braced for a question about scanning pork products.

"I'm going to say 'no' and stick to my religion and not change who I am for $7 an hour," Omar said.

As Minnesota's growing Muslim population struggles to balance faith and work, similar dilemmas are flaring up at taxi stands and checkout lines. The debate has ignited a backlash that's clogging Web sites and talk radio with people asking why Muslims would take jobs that conflict with their faith in the first place.

It's also worrying and dividing many Minneapolis-area Muslims, nearly half of whom are Somali immigrants. Some say they fear the incidents will jeopardize the modest gains they've made here and tarnish their image. Others in the state's diverse community of roughly 120,000 Muslims are expressing widely different views of the controversies.

Several Somali leaders say that only a small faction of area Muslims use extremely narrow interpretations of the Qur'an, such as refusing to handle pork products or transport alcohol-toting taxi riders. Others insist that no ringleaders are stirring the debate, which they say started simply as a series of individual decisions made without consulting scholars or considering the consequences.

Community leaders are hoping the budding tension can be quelled with more tolerance from all sides - Muslim workers, shoppers and employers. But events in the new few weeks could spark even more debate.

On April 12, a community meeting in Minneapolis will bring together Islamic scholars and U.S. legal experts to air religion-workplace issues. Four days later, the Metropolitan Airports Commission is likely to rule on a proposed crackdown that would suspend licenses if cabbies turn down fares for religious reasons.

Despite the turmoil, it's important to remember that a majority of Muslims and Somalis are enjoying productive and happy lives in Minnesota, said Ibrahim Ayeh, a math instructor at Washburn High School in Minneapolis.

"Just a few people are stirring up this culture clash, while the majority of Somalis and Muslims are absolutely appreciative of what Minnesota has done in welcoming them because they are more successful here than anywhere," said Ayeh, 60, one of the state's first Somali teachers.

"Most Somalis think all this makes us look bad," said Saeed Fahia, who helps find jobs for immigrants as director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. "I'm concerned an employer might fear they'll be sued and won't hire people. We can't afford to be that particular if we want to build relationships."

Somali advocate Abdirizak Bihie says the airport and cashier controversies are sidetracking immigrants from pursuing more pressing issues such as the lack of affordable housing and jobs that pay well.

"We want the larger community to know we're against this and we're frustrated," he said. "A few people are hijacking Islam like Osama bin Laden did on 9-11."

And the backlash, Bihie says, has struck fear in his Somali community. He says it's hard not to bristle when you read the hundreds of blog postings at the Minneapolis Star Tribune's community Web site,, or items like this one, culled from the locally based Power Line site: "Poor babies can't touch bacon ... boo hoo. Refuse to scan my bacon, and I guarantee you will be wearing it!"

Such vitriol bubbling up from a few incidents has drawn undue attention from non-Muslims, according to Atia Ibrahim, a computer security specialist who lives in Eden Prairie, Minn.

So, in what context did Power Line's bloggers make this remark? Here's their own response:

There you have it. We're vitriolic, and have struck fear into the Somali community. Odd thing, though: I didn't write that line about "poor babies" who "can't touch bacon," and neither did Paul or Scott. That quote never appeared on Power Line. I know where the reporter dredged it up, though; it comes from a comment that someone made on the AOL News site where we post, along with several other liberal and conservative bloggers.

So why did the reporter falsely claim that the quote was "culled from the locally- based Power Line site"? I don't know; he hasn't answered my email yet.

It's pretty obvious, though, that if he had said that he found the quote at AOL News, he couldn't have said it was locally-based, and it would have been hard to sell the idea that an anonymous AOL commenter had "struck fear into the Somali community" in the Twin Cities.

And, of course, the reporter probably has no particular animus against AOL.

Just to double- check, your Radio Equalizer reviewed Power Line's archives and found no mention of the phrase. And instead of correcting the story earlier in the week when it first ran, this piece has continued to be picked up by other newspapers, with several running it in today's editions.

That brings us to the real question: just who is doing the real inciting here? It seems the fingers are pointing right back at our Star- Tribune friends.

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Muslim image: NYT


  • This is a job? This makes you money, Brian?

    You're reporting on reporting. In some cases you're reporting on reporting on reporting.

    Completely regurgitate someone else's work, and then pick one or two angles out of it, and only write one or two sentences about the angle.

    Irrelevant, indeed.

    By Blogger TJ, at 30 March, 2007 18:53  

  • We should all be boycotting pork.

    Pigs, which are quite intelligent animals (as intelligent, say, as your
    family dog), are being raised in the most appalling circumstances.

    Have a heart. Eat tofu!

    By Blogger John, at 31 March, 2007 01:05  

  • Mmmm... Bacon.

    Mmmm... Tofu Don't think so.

    By Blogger pf1, at 31 March, 2007 01:29  

  • Boycott pork!

    Dolphin and whale are smarter and tastier, baby white seal ain't bad either with the proper marinade.

    By Blogger half, at 31 March, 2007 10:36  

  • Actually we should be boycotting libtards who are known to be pathological liars as a matter of course so they can bolster their seditious pandering to terrorists towel heads

    Hey metrodorus, you should try some of the Korean dog meat dishes ... Great stuff!

    By Blogger juandos, at 02 April, 2007 12:03  

  • "Great stuff!..."

    doorag too tight there, maricon?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 02 April, 2007 20:51  

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