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.