Kalkaska’s village president is as ignorant about Muslims as he is hateful

muslim family

Wouldn’t it be ironic if an outspoken bigot found himself needing the care of a Muslim doctor someday?

Muzammil Ahmed, left, is chairman of the Michigan Muslim Community Council. Steve Spreitzer is president and CEO of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

The recent comments by Kalkaska Village President Jeff Sieting calling for the killing of “every last Muslim” must not be taken lightly or ignored.  

At a time when 62 percent of Americans do not know a Muslim and acts of hate against Muslims are at record highs, these comments, coupled with the unending wave of national anti-Muslim rhetoric, create a dangerous situation for our Muslim neighbors. Non-Muslim residents, including Hindus, Sikhs and others, also suffer from negative interactions with people who mistake them for Muslims.

As the home to one of the nation’s largest population of Muslims, Michigan has benefited from their tremendous contributions to our economy and our communities. The Institute of Social Policy and Understanding’s recent study of Muslims in Michigan found that while they make up only 2.75 percent of the population, Muslims account for 15.4 percent of all physicians. They collectively give $171 million to charity and are responsible for $5.5 billion in consumer spending.

The study also found that Muslims are the most ethnically diverse faith community in the state. They are the only faith community with no majority race, with 25 percent black, 24 percent white, 18 percent Asian, 18 percent Arab, 7 percent mixed race, and 5 percent Hispanic.

The irony of Sieting’s ignorance is that his very life could one day be saved by one of the many Muslim doctors serving communities in the northwest part of our state.  

During the 76 years the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion has served the state, we have seen the consequences of hate speech against our indigenous peoples, African Americans, Catholic immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, LGBT individuals and the physically challenged.  

The Roundtable believes many Michiganders simply need to meet a Muslim to fully appreciate them as fellow human beings. We regularly refer interested people to their local hospital to meet a Muslim doctor, or advise them to reach out to their community mosque or the Michigan Muslim Community Council, which can help arrange an opportunity to learn about Islam and meet Muslims. Or they can watch “I am American,” a 16-minute film by Dune Baydoun.

While there is much work to be done, the real story from Kalkaska is the hundreds of members of the community who are standing up against hatred.  

We see this movement in communities across the state, where folks are seeking to make sure all their neighbors are treated fairly. We see mayors and city councils, school boards, police departments, religious congregations and businesses joining together for this cause.  

While the good people of Kalkaska are embarrassed by their village president, they should also be proud of their resolve to refuse to be known as a community that condones hate speech. We are honored to serve this state and look forward to meeting our better angels in the days ahead.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

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Thu, 07/27/2017 - 8:09am

I have a Muslim eye doctor, he is a great guy.

Le Roy G. Barnett
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 9:08am

The sad thing is that a man with such beliefs could be elected village president in the first place. Surely, his hateful views were not hidden until after he won his seat. As a vocal member of the community, the man must have long before winning public office expressed opinions that showed bias or ill-will. My guess is that, lamentably, many people in Kalkaska actually share this official's attitudes.

Teresa
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 11:44am

The FACT is, he was elected a few years ago.
His family being Forefathers & Mothers in this community.
He did not show "any" of this behavior publicly "until" it came to light of a election sign still hanging past election/ zoning ordinance, and his "response" to that led folk's to look closer at his behavior "period".
He was voted in by "only" the village residents, not the whole of the community.

He and his supporters now stand tall w/their "rights", as in freedom of speech due to his clan mentality rhetoric only coming to the public via his FB page. Yet that was posted "public" not friends only, private etc..
The folk's who are "WORKING" daily to change this, to stop this unacceptable behavior, have to follow "LAWS".

Change, growth happens world wide, and until folk's like even the 1's reading this article "stand side by side" to "teach" those that deem this as acceptable or the norm, we are failing.

These communities up here are known again "world wide" as vacation & tourist communities.
Folk's come year round up here for the lakes, hunting, snowmobiling, etc..
And then they go home all rested, feeling the JOY of the family bonding time for themselves...
And FORGET about our own family's, youth...
They forget that the family's here "WORK" for the year round enjoyment many only "use" once in awhile.
They forget that while "they" are fighting for their own communities schools, economy, seniors, working to put food on the table for their kids....
WE ARE DOING / WORKING FOR THE SAME!

Many are boycotting our community, and blaming the community for this 1 mans behavior! When do we have control over another human beings behavior?

"MANY" world wide are saying "mind your own business", he has every right to say what he wants! As long as he does not "act" on it. Ya know the whole "freedom of speech" again...
Most likely due to he and his "clan" wanna-bes are not right outside their front doors.
Militia showing up fully loaded to the Village meeting this week, locals in FEAR due to the LOUD wanna-be plain old BULLY's!
And i personally grew up w/guns and mother/ aunt now Seniors "carry" everywhere they go down state as they cannot move like they used too etc.. So for those folk's that "play" about their carry "rights", play elsewhere!

These are just a "few" out in the public eye examples.
PLEASE google our community, you will see the FIGHT for family's "lives" going on!

What we who are FIGHTING to make sure our youth are not poisoned anymore with this narcissism & hate, especially coming from a adult & community leader!

We have many "community" facebook pages hoping to show the joy, and wonderful things up here, PLEASE join!
If only to show your hands & let those who are in fear, lost in hope that you are out there.

Kalkaska Co. Fair is going on right now.
You all should see the kids "working" and the family's from 4-H to "every" event that goes on there!
Some of this mans supporters are even intimidating that going on!!!!!
Boycotting their own community annual event due to some of the folk's, family's working there "openly" REBUKE he and his clans insanity.

I was out at the fair grounds 2 days ago, and seeing the KIDS working so hard in the heat w/their projects, art set ups, and of course their pride & joy pets. I even got to meet a Steer named Alvin and his girl!
Made the mistake of calling him a cow too...
And, all i continue to think of this change needing "emergency" action,
Is about the kids....

Adults can pick & chose who to ignore, rebuke etc..

PLEASE folk's, remember we are no differnt then any of you.
And our own home communities, they count and NEED as much support as yours in change to grow...

It is pretty simple, no political party finger pointing necessary,
and it is not just about the good Muslim folk's, as the insanity of this human being & his good old boys/ girls has hit "every" race, even the LGBT folk's, they/ he even "play" the i and many are not Christian enough cards.

They are so ignorant they do not even know who, to as his words said "herd out".
Help us TEACH them that they are NOT the majority....

And thank you for putting this article out too!
1 more step in the solution.

The part about "what if he needed a Dr. and was offered treatment by a Muslim Dr."????
We "all" know he and his would have no problem accepting that treatment!
And that Doctors have no barriers in healing "every" human being that crosses their paths.
Even if they do not agree w/that persons political party choice, choice of where /how to worship, and who they love.

A volunteer
Fri, 07/28/2017 - 4:40am

Don't know where you get your info that Jeff's supporters are intimidating fair? I'm at the fair as a volunteer everyday. The issues with fair was County Board wanting to break a lease with fair and charge them a ton of money to put on fair. Village has nothing to do with county fair, only the county. It's held on county property. This is how rumors get spread.

Charles Morton
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 9:20am

In 1960, when John F. Kennedy was running as the first Catholic for president, there was a lot of talk that the Pope would run the country and Kennedy would bow to him. Kennedy stopped all of the talk once and for all by saying, "I am an American first and a Catholic second."
Muslims here could stop a lot of the negative perception just by saying, "I am an American first, and a Muslim second. I will uphold the laws and customs of this country ahead of any Muslim laws or customs."

Anonymous
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 10:37am

Would you ask the same of American Christians?

Matt
Fri, 07/28/2017 - 8:08am

We've been hearing and seeing this a long time with Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry both opposing their Catholic leaders on abortion. Where have you been?

Susan Swantek
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 10:39am

Your comment is part of the problem. Kennedy felt compelled to do that...over fifty years ago. Why should Muslims be required to do this? Do you go around saying "I'm an American first and a baptist/catholic/whatever second?" When should they say this and to whom? The problem is not Muslims but the bigots like the hate filled know nothing this article highlights.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 2:43pm

"Why should Muslims be required to do this? "

That's a very good question, Ms. Swantek.

Why not ask Lt. Jeff Neville?

Why not ask Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Pfc. Randall Smith, GySgt Thomas Sullivan, LCpl Squire Wells or SSgt. David Wyatt?

Why not ask Colleen Hufford?

Why not ask Gerald and Debbie Russell?

Why not ask Bill Foley?

I'm going out on a limb here, but I'm pretty sure there are some people from Orlando, San Bernadino, Boston & even New York (remember them), who would like to know why they are dead now because of a religion undergoing a civil war.

This wasn't a problem from 50-years ago, or even 25. It's happening right now.

People are legitimately scarred because they don't know if they'll be targeted for just simply going through their daily routine by those people I've mentioned above.

And before you bring up the tired left/right arguments, even the ACLU (another group of "hate filled, know-nothing bigots"), is concerned with the actions of Muslims. They're even using those actions as a legal defense.

https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/trump-administration-cant-deport-...

I would recommend that Mr. Ahmed concentrate more on the goings on within the Muslim Community instead of the internet postings of someone most people hadn't even heard of until today. Americans reading and hearing about Islamic terrorist attacks being stopped by the actions of other Muslims, will go much farther towards his goal than highlighting a Facebook re-post.

Charles Morton
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 2:55pm

I do not think Sharia Law is compatible with our constitution and our culture. Our First Amendment prohibits any law respecting the establishment or the free exercise of any religion. I want this to be clear before it becomes an issue.
I have no problem with Muslims if they want to assimilate and be Americans. If they believe in Sharia Law, they should not come to the US and expect us to adjust our laws and our culture to theirs.

Anonymous
Sun, 07/30/2017 - 6:29am

Typifies growing american racisim. There are many examples of white christian mass murder (dylan roof et al). This devolution is how a chaos merchant can seize power (trump)

Anonymous
Sun, 07/30/2017 - 6:31am

You failed to note the zeal we see for imposition of christian law

Mark
Sun, 07/30/2017 - 2:29pm

Who's talking about Sharia Law here? You are. Just you.

Linda C. A.
Sun, 07/30/2017 - 5:22pm

Let's ask the families in Charleston about "Christian" extremism; Oklahoma City about Timothey McVeigh; the parents of Sandy Hook - let's not just talk about one group of people, okay?

duane
Sun, 07/30/2017 - 9:34pm

Ms. Swantek,

The question starts with do we live in a secular society or should it be one of a controlled by a religion? If we are to respect other religions and want to have a society that provides equal opportunity to all then there must be an acceptance of the secular rules of society. American citizens conformance to the rules and regulations established the rule of law that facilitates our freedom, the allowance to be different, and for each be equal before the law.
Why should anyone be exempt from the rule of law simply because they have a different belief?

Elected officials such as the President swear to uphold the Constitution, it is done to ensure and re-assure the citizens that the rule of law will continue and no special treatment will be provide to citizens based on their race, religion, or national origin.
Those who risk their all to protect this country swear an allegiance to America and its rule of law, regardless of their religion. Why should someone be exempt from what those brave souls are required to do by having a certain religious belief? We may differ on laws and people may work to change aspects of the rules, but at least we deserve to know that those we differ with hold to the principles of this nation and the rules we will live by, until they are change by due process, are the laws we can trust and live by.

Once a particular ‘group’ is exempted from what are required of others the rule of law begins to unravel and the protection under the law is lost for all.
The secular laws need for the whole of society to supersede religious dogma if we to maintain the liberty that we have.
When a person with a Muslim faith is elected President they should take the same oath of upholding the US Constitution and the laws of our land as all other President take. I see the role/responsibilities no different for each citizen if we are to have a rule of law that protects each citizen.

nickrud
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 11:10am

What about all those Christian politicians that say they're Christians first, Americans second? They're quite blatant about it. Like Cruz - https://www.yahoo.com/news/ted-cruz-tells-reporters-im-201000179.html . Or Pence, our Vice President. Heck, he didn't even put American into his list of 'who he is' http://theweek.com/speedreads/637487/mike-pence-im-christian-conservativ... . After those prominent, powerful governmental officials put their being an American ahead of their religion I'll ask the Muslim cab driver to do the same.

Le Roy G. Barnett
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 3:59pm

Thanks, nickrud. The conservative icon, Ezra Taft Benson, wrote a book with the title "God, Family, Country." The singer Craig Morgan has a popular song with the same title. Even the American Legion's motto is "For God and Country Since 1919." No one seems to be upset about these priorities until someone substitutes "Allah" for "God." I see that practice as a double standard. Given all that America has done for us, Uncle Sam should be ranked first.

Rob
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 12:50pm

The data is indisputable that the population most likely to commit terrorist atrocities in this country are white christian males -- do you think that all white christian males should have to sign a pledge not to be violent and maybe surrender their firearms so that the rest of the population can feel safer? Or do you think that would be unfair to stereotype a whole group for the actions of tiny minority? If the latter, why don't you extend the same thinking to Muslims?

MichiganGirl
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 9:36am

This man needs to be removed from his position.

Larry Peplin
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 10:42am

We can only hope that this man never gets elected to another office beyond Village President of Kalkaska. They can keep him.

Angie
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 11:14am

Thank you for this article. I hope the good people of any place experiencing hate speech will get support from their religious leaders, especially Christian clergy.

Mary
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 12:14pm

Had no idea ethnically diverse the Muslim faith community is. Very interesting.

Robert
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 12:44pm

I think it is very important that there be a boycott of Kalkaska so the people who elected this ignorant bigot know that there will be consequences for this nonsense. White Americans are very complacent in this way -- we are too used to being the favored majority whose bad attitudes are given a pass because the people offended do not have the social power to enforce their rights.

Lindsey
Fri, 07/28/2017 - 4:35am

He ran unopposed more then once. If you only knew what is going on up here, you would understand why nobody wants his job. Research helps a lot.

Dick Burke
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 2:00pm

My neighbors are Muslims from Lebanon and Saudi. My neurologist is a Sunni Muslim from Lebanon. My eye & ear doctor is from Egypt. The parents of a dermatologist are from Palestine. Another dermatologist is from Teheran, Iran. They all are fine citizens of our country.

My grandparents are from Ireland. Unless we are native Americans, all our ancestors came from somewhere across the seas. Its what makes America great.

David Crambell
Thu, 07/27/2017 - 3:38pm

^^^this is the right answer^^^

any person who has to question how "America" once was has an issue...

duane
Tue, 08/01/2017 - 2:09am

I apologize for interrupting your point. But my reality is that everyone's ancestors came from some place other than north America, so based on the criteria there are no 'Native Americans'. I believe that anyone that was born here and knows know other culture but the American culture [as prescribed by law] thus only knows America is a native American.

What has made America great isn't where our forefathers came from, it is the American culture that is not chained to the past or to any other culture. Our culture is built on individual responsibility, other the support of others, and most importantly on change, on the creativity and persistence of the individuals. It is especially not chain to the cultures of where our ancestors came from.

I take no responsibility for what my parents did and especially not what their parents did, and I place no burden of blind loyally on our children, they are allowed to be themselves.

John Schmidt
Fri, 07/28/2017 - 2:17pm

Thanks for the great article from Dr. Ahmed and Mr. Spreitzer about the continuing hate that is spewed from too many US citizens about Muslims. These hate spewers are similar to those who were offended when the Irish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and others arrived in this country.
As to Dr. Ahmed, he is an excellent urologist who treats me and has treated my wife. Excellent training and first class service from a man who lives as an American and lives his faith. Spot on, Dr. Ahmed!

Aldon
Sat, 07/29/2017 - 11:26am

This whole thing of hating, beating, and treats against foreigners has happened before and will happen again. We white people just cannot tolerate others. We killed the Indians and made slaves of the Negro. We also like the status quo. My mother talks about how poorly her family of immigrants was treated. After a while life returns to a new normal. That is unless the powers-that-be fuel the flames of dissension and suspicion. What will they use next when people realize that the term "hate crimes" was only meant to inflame a situation? We go insane in a group, and unfortunately, come to our senses one at a time.

Michigander
Sat, 07/29/2017 - 9:54pm

My Dad had a heart attack at 3am last December, was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance where a cardiologist was waiting to save his life by inserting a stent. This Dr was Muslim. I am so thankful for his help and so is my whole family. And when people make hateful statements about Muslims, I tell them this story. Muslims are just people, like you and me. Peace!