Inslee urges unity in the face of ‘fear and hatred’ in speech at Redmond mosque

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound mosque in Redmond on Wednesday. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times)

Dozens of signs urging “silence please” did little to stifle the buzz from the roughly 2,000 people who crowded Wednesday into the Muslim Association of Puget Sound mosque in Redmond.

Guest speaker Gov. Jay Inslee addressed the overflow crowd on Eid al-Fitr, the ceremonial last day of Ramadan.

“I respect silence,” Inslee said. “I think there is a time and place where silence is needed. … But today is not a time for silence in Washington. Today is a time where we stand up on our two feet and say with all the virtue and strength we can summon from our hearts, that all faiths and all communities and all quarters of the state, that we intend to stand together and embrace one another and not allow fear and hatred to divide our best communities in the state of Washington.”

Inslee’s speech was preceded by Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) President Mahmood Khadeer offering his thoughts on the current political landscape, the xenophobia facing the Muslim community and the violent acts of the Islamic State group.

Khadeer, whose mosque was the target of a telephone threat last month, said the Muslim community faces unjust repercussions from acts of terrorism.

“Every time there is a terror attack, the Muslim community faces the backlash,” he said. “We have men being punched, shot and stabbed before prayers. We have protesters with guns outside mosques in Texas. We have women in hijabs being ridiculed, we have kids at school being bullied … and we have threats being made to our places of worship, including this one.”

Among those in attendance were Issaquah residents Neimeh Shalash, her husband, Mohammad Kaddoura, and their two boys, Omar and Bashir. They said anti-Islam sentiments and threats have made them more worried recently about the Seattle community where they’ve lived nearly 20 years.

“I grew up in Kentucky, but I never felt any different there,” said Shalash after the service. “For the first time in my life, I worry. I worry about my kids. I look twice when somebody looks at me, and I worry that something is going to happen.”

“Because of politics going on, with Trump, my kids are aware of it and people talk about it,” she added. “I’ve been noticing kids pick up some of the rhetoric that unfortunately is not positive against anyone that’s not like them.”

Inslee — who is running for re-election in November — was joined by Redmond Mayor John Marchione and Redmond Police Chief Kristi Wilson.

Wilson was presented with an award recognizing her force’s strong relationship and involvement in the MAPS community.

“It’s very important for us,” Khadeer said of the support for the mosque, the largest in the Puget Sound region. “I think he [Inslee] is one of the examples of sticking with the American values of liberty, freedom and equality for all religions, races and lifestyles. He’s an embodiment of that.”

Inslee’s message was in line with his statements last November, when he insisted that Washington would welcome refugees at a time when other governors around the country said they would oppose hosting Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks.

From October 2014 to September 2015, 25 refugees from Syria entered Washington state. 

Nonetheless, Inslee’s remarks led to protests outside the Capitol last fall and opposition from Rep. Jay Rodne, R-Snoqualmie, who called Inslee’s opinion “utterly irresponsible.”

“The people who are building the state of Washington, many of them are here,” Inslee said Wednesday. “When we have threats from anyone, including wayward politicians or those who would do violence in our mosques, you bet I will call you and stand with you.”

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