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Islam in the Heartland

PJM Indianapolis: "Flyover country" is generally thought to be a conservative stronghold. But Ari Kaufman finds that the center of the country is more complicated than that - citing as an example the push in Indiana to accomodate ritual Moslem footwashing in public airports.

by
Ari J. Kaufman

Bio

October 28, 2007 - 12:27 am

When residents of the East or West Coast tell me their impressions of the American Midwest, they think of bucolic terrain, churchgoing folks, Main Streets dotted with Old Glory, Mom and Pop stores and family values. While much of this is true, especially the farther you move out from the major Midwest cities, most of these folks actually mistake the Midwest for the Great Plains.

Look at a map of any election, especially a county breakdown, and you’ll see that Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and even Indiana resemble that description far less than, say, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Kansas, and even Iowa.

I have this on good authority. Born in Washington, DC and raised and educated in Southern California, it took me until I was in my mid-20s to realize what so many sheltered coastalites don’t: that there is an America in between the Hudson and Sierra Nevadas.

Not only that, but it’s beautiful and embodies the American spirit far more than does the physical and socio-political “fringe.” Trust me, I’ve driven through all 48 contiguous states just in the past three years. I now live in Indiana, and despite even the perplexed looks of Hoosiers when I tell them I moved FROM California to Indy, I have no regrets.

Flyover country generally is thought to vote Republican. And while that’s true, it’s a very vague assertion.

Most of the major cities of the Midwest (Detroit, Chicago, Saint Louis, Milwaukee, Cleveland and Minneapolis, for starters) have long been Democrat strongholds. Watch any election night if you disagree. As a resident of Indianapolis and someone who also visits Cincinnati multiple times yearly, I can further tell you the latter two, despite traditionally being more conservative, currently have Democrat mayors. “Cincy” has not had a Republican city executive in over 30 years, and, like Indy voted for John Kerry in 2004. The political leanings in my area of downtown Indianapolis often remind me of when I lived near Venice Beach, not the Indiana the media describes.

If you noticed that Detroit and St. Louis regularly take first and second place in murder rate, as they were in 2006, would that sound like the heartland? Probably about as little as Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a university that is over 10% Muslim, an anti-Israeli congressman, and so many terrorist cells and Islamic appeasers that it has earned the moniker “Dearbornistan,” sounds like warm apple pie.

It then may come as little surprise then, that the city of Plainfield, just west of Indianapolis, is home to the Islamic Center of North America, which, according to their mission, “has served the Muslims of this continent for well over forty years.”

The entire continent. And it’s based in “The Heartland.” As is Dearborn.

What’s next? Accommodating Islam—and Islam only—at the local airport?

Yes, of course. After digesting some of the “surprising information” it isn’t really surpising that the aforementioned Indiana based Islamic Center succeeded in their efforts, to install religious sinks in Indianapolis’ new airport terminal, thanks to a friendship with the ACLU of Indiana (the ICLU).

The ICLU is nowhere to be found on the religious aspect of the airport sinks matter. Last seen, they and their legal director, Ken Falk, were assisting The American Atheists in removing any semblance of religion from small towns in Indiana and suing the state over the “In God We Trust” license plates issued by the Indiana BMV earlier this year. These innocuous matters apparently make the litigation agenda, not sectarian sinks in a major airport.

In a controversy that has been widely publicized, at issue is a washroom that is designed specifically for Muslims to sit down and wash their feet before they pray. The proposal calls for such a facility to be built in the “taxi drivers’ lounge” at the airport, since 80 percent of cabbies are Muslims.

As Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch noted soon after discovering the plan:

“The only conceivable group that will use the foot bath are Muslims for prayer,” Spencer said. “It’s a religious installation for a religious use.”

Without the ICLU or other major political bodies taking a stand, the Hope Baptist Church on Indianapolis’ west side, decided to organize a Columbus Day Weekend protest. {For pictures of the event, click here. For a transcripts of the Pastor’s speech on the matter, click here.}

According to the a recap of a similar Sunday sermon from late September on the matter, Pastor Jerry Hillenburg has already blasted what he described as a secular government “that is condemning Christianity, lifting its support on the government’s dime to the religion of Islam. ”

Seemingly, many view this as going beyond religious “tolerance,” especially since no Muslim groups ever asked for the facility. As far back as a month ago, news reports have said opposition toward the endeavor is strong.

“It is the establishment of a religion to take taxpayers’ dollars on taxpayers’ property and build a building that will support that religious entity during its times of prayer and has simply no other purpose,” says Hillenburg, whose son died fighting in Iraq.

Like many parents whose children made the ultimate sacrifice, Hillenburg believes Americans are “caving in to Islam. It is absolutely unconstitutional and positively discriminatory,” Hillenburg said.

My personal e-mails to Mr. Falk, who is also a Professor at Indiana University’s Law School, and others at the ICLU have long gone unanswered. But in public appearances he seems mostly concerned about the rights of—and discrimination against—”Arab Americans” than in the separation of church and state.

Similarly unresponsive has been Union for Reform Judaism President, Eric Yoffie. As Jewish leaders like Yoffie stand in solidarity with the ACLU, the URJ and Islam, it’s apparently up to the churches to stand up to Islamofascism.

Common local consensus on the airport matter is negative, even from the left. But if the supportive local publicity is an indication, people like Spencer being silenced, and and if post-9/11 history is a guide, rest assured that the “Religion of Peace” will have its sinks with the opening of the new terminal next summer just like those at NYU – but in the heartland.

A former California schoolteacher and Indiana military historian, Ari Kaufman now resides in Minnesota and does public relations.
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