CAIR MN's Zikri denounces Torgerson's "anti-Islamic" rhetoric
Lynne Torgerson, who is running to unseat U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison in Minnesota's fifth congressional district, is using anti-Islamic language to attack both her opponent and his faith, says Jessica Zikri, spokeswoman for the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
At issue: Language on Torgerson's Web site that says Islam "is advocating criminal behavior," and that, "Keith Ellison simply is not a proper person to have in our federal government."
"It's obvious she's attacking his religion," Zikri says. "She's attacking his religion to win votes. It exposes her ignorance, and it will be her undoing" in the fifth district, which encompasses Minneapolis and its large Muslim population. With that demographic, "how is being anti-Islamic a way to get votes?"
Torgerson has been taking heat after the Minnesota Independent recently published an interview with her, and politicos who know her views. In an interview with City Pages, Torgerson defended the language on her Web site, which says in part:
"What do I know of Islam? Well, I know of 911. Nineteen (19) men from Saudi Arabia, all Muslim, hi-jacked planes, and flew into the two (2) World Trade Towers murdering thousands of people, and tried to fly into our Pentagon, and some believe they also tried to fly an airplane into our White House. From this, what I perceive is Islam conducting an act of war against my country."
The Quran actually teaches Muslims to kill people not of their faith, which includes Christians and Jews, which are labeled infidels. ("Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush.: (Sura 9:5)). This is advocating criminal behavior.
"I'm not aware of Christians doing anything like 9/11," Torgerson says. But she insists she is not tarnishing an entire religion because of the heinous acts of a few terrorists. And she denies that she is attacking Ellison's faith.
"People are free to worship whomever they want," she says. "It's because of his behavior, not because of his faith," she says he's calling Ellison "an inappropriate person to have in Congress."
Torgerson tells us it is Ellison's support of the Council on American-Islamic Relations she opposes. The group has been branded by its critics -- mostly conservative activists, lawmakers and journalists -- of being a terrorist front.
"I do want to protect freedom of religion and speech," she says. "People are free to worship whomever they want. The question is, how do we address behavior? How do we balance that? How do we even talk about that?"
CAIR has defended itself against these kinds of attacks for years, as it advocates for better understanding and mutual respect among people of all faiths, and fighting for the civl rights of Muslims in the larger American -- and non-Muslim -- society. Its leaders were among the first to denounce the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it condemns "religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism."
Zikri says she doesn't buy Torgerson's defense, calling it a transparent attempt to draw attention away from the statements on her Web site, "which have everything to do with Islam and nothing to with CAIR."
"They are "grossly anti-Islamic" Zikri says. "They expose her ignorance," use the kind of language that leads to anti-Islamic hate, and need to be denounced by Minnesota's political and religious leaders.
Rather than trying to inflame the emotions of citizens and voters, Zikir says Torgerson "ought to meet face to face with a Muslim, maybe with Ellison himself," and try to forge some kind of personal connection in an effort to build bridges.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.