We can’t afford to let hate drive doctors away

According to Voice of America, hate crimes targeting Muslim Americans were up nearly 600 percent from 2014 to 2016. A Muslim advocacy group blames the anti-Islam rhetoric during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election for fueling those hate crimes.

This hate is mostly based on ignorance. A Public Religion Research Institute study showed six out of 10 surveyed Americans seldom or never had a conversation with a Muslim. Most Americans also say they know little or nothing at all about Islam.

How does Southwest Minnesota fare?

Well, a recent Washington Post article gives some insight. Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen profiled a Muslim doctor who works in Dawson. This article is important, because many of our doctors delivering vital health care needs come from different countries and cultures that most of us are familiar with.

Dr. Ayaz Virji is the first Muslim to ever live in Dawson, according to this report. He expressed his fear after Donald Trump won the election. He realized many of his neighbors voted for Trump, despite his proposals of banning Muslims from entering the U.S. and toying with the idea of forming a registry for Muslims.

He was invited by various community groups to give lectures on Islam. Some of these lectures apparently didn’t go so well. Several men at one lecture called him the antichrist. There were protests before some of his lectures. He also wore a bulletproof vest at some of these speaking engagements.

At one lecture that drew 400 people, he asked “Do I look like a terrorist?”

He then showed a slide show of family photos.

“Look! We’re normal!” he said. “That’s our cat.”

He actually received applause.

He spoke at another event in Granite Falls.

“Because it’s easy to demonize. You know, ‘everybody else is crazy and I’m just right,’ “ he said. “And what kind of society does that create? That’s what ISIS does. That’s what these zealots do. Do we want to be like that? As Americans, don’t we want to be better than that. We better be better than that.”

“But that’s not what we’re talking about. Because if you say, “That’s Islam,’ Then that’s like me saying, ‘Well, Christianity is David Koresh,’ ” he said, referring to the cult leader.

Virji quoted Koran verses to explain how there is no compulsion to convert people to Islam, how extremists who believe that “Hate me more than they hate you.”

But the most compelling quote of all:

“Why should I come to rural America and help people who think I’m a terrorist and say, ‘Let’s ban these people from coming here! Ban these doctors from coming here!’ “

Virji asks a good question. Hate and ignorance are not good reasons for losing good doctors that are desperately needed here in Southwest Minnesota.

The article can be found on the Washington Post website.