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Minnesota Faith Coalition Calls for Airport Incident Dialogue

December 8, 2006

St. Paul, MN - A Minnesota faith-based advocacy group is calling on state officials to encourage tolerance for all beliefs. In a letter to the Department of Human Rights, Brian Rusche with the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition asks the agency to meet with religious leaders to discuss a recent incident at the Twin Cities Airport, in which six Muslim Imams were handcuffed and refused service on a U.S. Airways flight.

"Maybe we could help recruit interfaith teams of people representing different faith communities, who could talk to some groups and give an interfaith perspective on why human rights and religious freedom is important for all of us?"

Rusche adds that it's not about Muslims or religion, but human rights.

"This is an issue that Jews and Christians and Muslims share, in terms of being able to practice our religion and not feel discrimination. It's also about Minnesota's reputation as a good place to be, a good place to live and a good place to do business."

Rusche says he understands the public response to seeing Muslims praying at an airport, because of increased safety fears and suspicions. He urges state leaders to bring people of different faiths together and come up with a plan to promote tolerance of the different beliefs Minnesotans have.

The Imams were heading to Arizona after attending a convention in Minnesota. A complaint by another passenger prompted the incident, which became national news. The six were released after questioning, and later left on Northwest Airlines after U.S. Airways refused to sell them tickets.

The Joint Religious Legislative Coalition is an interfaith nonprofit involving the Minnesota Catholic Conference, Minnesota Council of Churches, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and the Islamic Center of Minnesota.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN