What’s troubling about the charter school debate: The hate


by Marcia Lynx Qualey, 5/19/08 • The Minnesota Department of Education on May 19 issued a report clearing Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy of the major allegations leveled against it and requesting that the school address smaller areas of concern.

The report stated that the school’s core business—curriculum—was nonreligious, in full compliance with all Minnesota statutes. The Department of Education’s areas of concern related to how the school structures its voluntary Friday prayers as well as the timing of after-school busing. In a statement, Tarek school officials said that they take these concerns “very seriously” and will be getting together with parents and Department of Education officials to quickly rectify any possible or perceived infractions.

Minnesota Muslims are finding themselves voiceless, discussed, defined, categorized, psychoanalyzed, talked at and talked about without a serious attempt at inclusion. Muslims, and friends of Muslims, would like to change this climate. Engage Minnesota is a blog that begins that effort.

However, the small concerns detailed in the May 19 report are not what should be most troubling to Minnesotans. What should trouble us most is the atmosphere of hatred and hate speech that surrounds them.

Just minutes after Sarah Lemagie’s story about the Department of Education report was posted on the Star Tribune’s website, the inflammatory comments began.

One was titled by its poster “They should not be here,” and immediately painted all American Muslims with the same brush: “Think about this, This is one school in Minnesota how many are there in the united states. I don’t trust them any more than I can throw that school. Remember those that took flight lessons?”

Even more concerning was that, three hours after the article was posted, a feature on the website announced that “50 of 80 people (who registered an opinion) liked this comment.”

Another comment, titled, “Terrorists in training,” stated, “Nice to see our tax money help these people teach kids to hate americans.” The website reported at 6:15 p.m. that “70 of 99 people liked this comment.”

Of the 74 comments posted at 6:15, many of them used the article as an opportunity for hate speech against all Muslims; thus, the Star Tribune allowed its website to be used as a platform for hate.

State statutes that may have been transgressed are a matter for state officials, legal experts, and educators to debate and correct. Those of us in the general public need to worry most about why this becomes an opportunity for hatred, and how we can change that.