My Point of View: Thoughts about Republican Liberty Caucus convention

Published 10:00 pm Monday, June 11, 2018

My Point of View, By Ebenezer Howe

Based on the results of the DFL and GOP state conventions and what I think were some weird candidate filings following them, let’s talk about something with which a lot of people are uncomfortable: the surprise filing for attorney general by Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress.

I, and some of the folks I support, are said to have Islamophobia, only because of our stance on some issues. Case in point is Phillip Parrish, former candidate for governor on the GOP side. He says that Islamic Sharia Law is not compatible with the Constitution of the United States, with which I mostly agree.

Ebenezer Howe

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Do I suffer from Islamophobia? Maybe. Do you? Maybe. Do you ever back up and go down a different aisle in a store when you see a woman in a head scarf and long dress heading your way? I do. I am afraid I might inadvertently do something that could cause a difficult situation for her. For all I know, maybe not all females who wear head scarfs and long dresses are Muslim — I just assume they are.

I have some personal bias on followers of Islam based mostly on my take of what I have heard in the news, comments from people who I think have much more knowledge on Islam than I, and the few books I have read trying to understand that religion. I believe Muhammad founded Islam just so he would be the guy in charge.

In the past, I am sure that I have mentioned that I am a founding member of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota. The Republican Liberty Caucus is a 527 voluntary grassroots membership organization dedicated to working within the Republican Party to advance the principles of individual rights, limited government and free markets. The Minnesota chapter is, to my knowledge, the only one to have ever become an affiliate of the chapter’s state Republican Party.

The chair of the caucus is a 33-year-old ball of fire, Zavier Bicott, who wants to bring more liberty-minded people into the Republican Party and the caucus. Through Zavier’s encouragement, the board reached out to liberty-minded Muslims by choosing to have our 2018 convention at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic community center in Bloomington, which was the one that was bombed in 2017.

As you might guess, there was some pushback to the plan of holding the convention at a civic center which is attached to a mosque. But when all the noise was analyzed, it turned out to be a few people who made a lot of posts on social media. They did not follow through by coming to the convention as delegates or observers because they really had no logical arguments to put forth. Following the announcement of selecting a Muslim community center for the location of the RLCMN 2018 convention, Minnesota Public Radio did a story on it. That story was then picked up by the Pioneer Press, Washington Post and Fox News. To me the tone of the MPR story was that they expected and were hoping for fireworks, but didn’t happen.

Since the Republican Liberty Caucus believes in the rule of law, everyone is innocent until proved guilty. (Remember, not that many years ago Protestants and Catholics were shooting up Northern Ireland.) This was not a religious event, and it was cost effective: the center is free for events such as our convention. These were valid reasons to hold the convention at the Muslim community center in an attempt to reach out to Muslims4Liberty.

Unfortunately the convention was poorly attended, and shame on the folks who shunned the event. It was a super chance to learn something.

I arrived at the convention early in order to take advantage of meeting some practicing Muslims. The highlight for me was meeting a Muslim new member of RLCMN. His family came from a war-torn country in Africa, and he actually did most of his growing up in North Dakota. He is married to a Christian. He is also a big guy, the reason Zavier had picked him for sergeant-at-arms. The more we talked, the more I found out we were on the same page but different ends.

We agreed that probably 75 percent of people don’t care one way or the other, they just want to be left alone. We also agreed that there are around 12.5 percent from a radical extreme. The radical extremes being ISIS on one end and on the opposite end those who believe Muslims want Islam forced onto the whole world. Then the last 12.5 percent from the liberal extreme. Those are the folks who see no problems at all co-existing.

I am from the 6.25 percent who say Islam must renounce Sharia to truly be compatible with the United States Constitution. Where do you find yourself?

Alden resident Ebenezer Howe is chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the local party members.