SDPB’s In the Moment featured a conversation this noon with Dr. Ayaz Virji, chief of staff and clinic medical director at Johnson Memorial Health Services in Dawson, Minnesota. A Muslim Indian born in Kenya, raised in Florida, and educated at Georgetown, Dr. Virji said that the tiny fraction of Muslims who have resorted to terrorism do not speak for his religion no more than Dylan Roof, David Koresh, or Joseph Kony speak for Christianity.
Dr. Virji will his effort to speak up for his fellow Muslim Americans to Aberdeen Wednesday evening. The Minnesota physician will deliver the latest Wolf Talk at Northern State University Wednesday, November 29, at 6:30 p.m. in the Johnson Fine Arts Center Blue Room. Dr. Virji’s talk should be a welcome antidote to the fearful and angry anti-refugee rallies sponsored by Ardys Gosch and other Trump-addled Aberdonians. Somehow I suspect Dr. Virji won’t have to resort to accusing local business leaders of participating in an evil global plot to make his plain, factual point that he, his family, and millions of other Muslims are good neighbors and good Americans.
As Dr. Virji explained to Lori Walsh this noon, he didn’t come to the prairie to be a public speaker; he just wanted to practice medicine in a small town where he could actually work with his patients. But when his neighbors voted for Donald Trump last year, when Dr. Virji heard supposedly decent, Christian Americans embracing the idea of forcing him, his wife, and his three children onto some ethnic registry or out of the country, and when Dr. Virji’s son suggested the family simply hide its faith so they could stay in Dawson, he took on a new role. Invited by a local Lutheran pastor (ah, those Lutherans), Dr. Virji spoke about his religion at a public forum in Dawson. He started taking his talk to other Minnesota towns and, as he got nationwide press, around the U.S. He has made an effort to refute in print some of the standard anti-Muslim propaganda peddled by fearmongers.
Dr. Virji’s visit comes the same week that USD, toward our other border, hosts Sioux Falls lawyer Taneeza Islam in a public discussion of Islamophobia and anti-refugee bigotry. Attendees at either event stand to learn more about Islam than anyone attending Jason Ravnsborg’s dog-and-phony slideshows.