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Willmar woman speaks out against Islamophobia

Hamdi Kosar speaks during the Willmar City Council open forum Monday, Jan. 29, about the hardships of immigrating to the United States and the importance of finding a community. Erica Dischino / Forum News Service

WILLMAR, Minn. — A Willmar woman who has been urging city officials to adopt a welcoming city resolution offered her voice in support of a statewide coalition calling on people of faith to fight Islamophobia.

Hamdi Kosar of Willmar joined Muslim and Christian faith leaders Thursday, Feb. 1, at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington for a rally also aimed at encouraging people to attend their precinct caucuses. The effort was sponsored by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, ISAIAH, and the ISAIAH Muslim Coalition.

The rally follows controversy over reports that state Reps. Cindy Pugh and Kathy Lohmer had posted a statement on Facebook that there is a plan to "mobilize Muslims to infiltrate our Republican caucuses on Feb. 6."

According to a Star-Tribune report, Pugh and Lohmer implied in their Facebook post that the Muslim-Americans at a mosque caucus training were not Americans and had a hidden agenda to enact their own laws.

Jeff Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner and Republican candidate for governor, on Wednesday in a podcast complimented Pugh for notifying Republicans of the alleged Muslim effort to influence Republican caucuses.

Jessica Rohloff, a leader with ISAIAH in Willmar, said the organization has held caucus training sessions in Willmar for those in the Latino, Somali and traditional white communities. People attending the sessions learned how they can speak to their faith values by participating in the caucus of their own choosing, she said.

Many political parties, civic and religious groups conduct caucus training sessions to help citizens understand and practice the Minnesota method of choosing party leaders and formulating the party platform at precinct caucuses.

The caucus process on Tuesday, Feb. 6, will be the first step in a political process that will lead to endorsing candidates for office.

Kosar said the charge that Muslims are seeking to be "infiltrating'' caucuses as well as statements that denigrate immigrants are attempts to intimidate.

At the rally in Bloomington, she spoke of how because of her Somali heritage, she was told she did not have a "right" to speak to her city council. She told about how she has heard disparaging comments and, at one time, had her hijab forcibly removed.

"I believe in possibilities,'' said Kosar at the rally, emphasizing that she is an American citizen with the same rights as everyone else.

She has not let the negative comments get in the way of her belief in the Willmar community she calls home, and its people. Kosar told those at the rally: "Alongside the angry and fearful people, there are also those who stand besides me.''

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

(320) 214-4335
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