Alarmed by rising hostility directed at Muslims, the mayor of one of Minnesota’s most diverse suburbs has called a meeting of its faith leaders and residents to foster unity.
Brooklyn Park Mayor Jeff Lunde is asking residents along with Christian, Muslim and Hindu faith leaders to attend a forum on Jan. 28 at City Hall.
“As the largest … diverse city in Minnesota we feel an obligation to lead,” Lunde said. “The national dialogue, the rhetoric on both sides drives me absolutely crazy. You watch someone take one religion apart.
“That’s not how we do things in Brooklyn Park. We actually talk and listen.”
Brooklyn Park is the second most diverse city in the state, behind only neighboring Brooklyn Center. Half its population is identified as African-American, Asian, Hispanic or mixed race. The city, along with other parts of the north metro area, is home to several mosques.
Lunde, who is Christian, spoke with faith leaders before scheduling the forum. He said the response was overwhelmingly positive, with two dozen priests, ministers and imams promising to attend.
Lunde said he fears that the anti-Muslim rhetoric playing out across the nation is wearing people down, causing stress in communities, neighborhoods and even on the playgrounds.
“I don’t know a single Muslim leader who wants to give aid and comfort to a terrorist. But I’ve heard about a young girl being picked on because she wears a hijab. This isn’t how we do business,” Lunde said.
“We are neighbors. Our kids go to school together. There are people on my street of the Muslim faith and on committees in our city.”
Lunde said police also have reached out to local faith communities, offering help if they feel unlawfully targeted.
Faith leaders will meet with Lunde next week to establish talking points for the meeting.
The mayor said he’d like to keep the focus on local relations, adding that he won’t let outsiders use the peaceful gathering as a soapbox. “This is about our city, our community and our neighbors,” Lunde said. “This is not about national politics.”