If the Sedgwick County Commission wanted to pass resolutions responding to the bombing of a Russian airliner and the attacks on Paris, it could have done so without language so pointedly tying the terrorist acts to a faith practiced by thousands of people who call Sedgwick County home.
Unfortunately, the 4-1 votes to approve the off-agenda resolutions were just the start of the fearmongering ugliness at Wednesday’s meeting.
Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, the resolutions’ author, later used up 13 minutes of time and tax-funded resources warning citizens to “be prepared” against the imminent “Islamist threat” in our country. He called it “irrelevant” that not all Muslims are terrorists. He further insulted the religion with a slide show depicting criminals and terrorists who share the name “Muhammad,” the chief prophet and central figure of Islam.
Left unanswered by the grandstanding rant was what purpose Peterjohn thought he was serving, other than to incite and offend.
The terrorist attacks in Paris and over Egypt were a shock to the conscience of every citizen of the nation and world who values human rights and freedom. But there are far more productive ways to express that sentiment than those chosen by Peterjohn and endorsed by three of his fellow commissioners.
The Islamic Society of Wichita, for example, offers this statement on its website: “We condemn this horrific attack in the strongest terms possible. Such inexcusable acts of violence must be repudiated by Americans of all faiths and backgrounds. The American Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens in offering condolences to the loved ones of those killed and injured and in rejecting anyone who would harm the humanity safety and security. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families impacted by this tragedy.”
In TV interviews responding to Peterjohn’s actions, Islamic Society spokesman Hussam Madi called Peterjohn’s comments “inflammatory” and “offensive” and suggested local government leaders should be promoting understanding. He invited those who’d like to learn more about Islam to visit the mosque at K-96 and Woodlawn. The society’s Muslim Community Center also will be the site for a Dec. 6 dinner and panel discussion on “Islam as a Faith and Way of Life” hosted by the Global Learning Center of Wichita.
Regrettably, Peterjohn is in step with his party. With GOP presidential candidates advocating that mosques be closed and only Christian refugees be allowed in the U.S., it’s easy to forget President Bush’s outstanding leadership post-Sept. 11, when he took care to say that our war was not against Islam and that “every faith is practiced and protected here, because we are one country.”
Are we still?