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Albert Lea’s MLK event looks into tenets of the Islamic faith

Justice and peace were at the forefront of the 29th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration Monday at Riverland Community College.

Keynote speaker Khalil Houri of the Twin Cities-based Islamic Resource Group discussed the tenets of Islam.

Houri discussed his background growing up in Lebanon before moving to Germany in 1975 at the beginning of the Lebanese Civil War.

He said interfaith dialogue is a step to building camaraderie among different groups.

“I think the No. 1 weapon against fear and hate is when people get together and know each other,” Houri said. “When people get together and know each other, they know each other’s names, how many children they have. Then they begin to be comfortable with that other person, and we are less vulnerable to those who want to spread hate and fear among different communities.”

Cassi Schreiber performs a Finlandia "Song of Peace" Monday during the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Riverland Community College. – Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

Cassi Schreiber performs a Finlandia “Song of Peace” Monday during the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at Riverland Community College. – Sam Wilmes/Albert Lea Tribune

Houri said there are misconceptions about Sharia law, and he said he has never heard that mentioned as a possibility by a group of Muslims in the United States.

“It’s all of these other people that are trying to spread hate and fear that say, ‘look, the Muslims are coming and want to impose Sharia on you,’ That’s what we hear a lot.”

Houri said Sharia law includes ethics and the principles of the religion — safeguarding faith, life, mind, family and property. He spoke against the use of the words “holy wars” by the Islamic State as not a part of Islam.

Cassi Schreiber performed a Finlandia “Song of Peace” as a solo and “Let There be Peace on Earth,” with the audience as the closing song.

Three Martin Luther King Jr. scholarships were presented to Albert Lea High School students Justine Nelson, Bethany Tennis and Jack Buendorf. Nelson was not in attendance.

The Rev. Mark Boorsma of Ascension Lutheran Church delivered remarks prior to Houri’s address.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. said acceptance is the most important lesson of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

“We know that diversity is going to be a part of all communities in the future, and those communities that embrace that diversity are going to move forward for everybody,” he said. “I think it is important that we all look at these as opportunities, not as roadblocks.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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