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14 Points from Ayaz Virji on Trump, Islam, Prooftexting, and Serving Rural America

Dad-duties kept me from hearing Dr. Ayaz Virji’s full presentation on Islam at NSU last night. While we missed the Minnesota doctor’s Q&A with what appears to be the biggest crowd this year for an NSU Wolf Talk (at least according to the empty seats I see in the videos of past talks posted by NSU TRIO SSS), my daughter and I did catch the first 80 minutes of Dr. Virji’s speech.

Much of what Dr. Virji, an Indian Muslim born in Kenya but raised in America, presented tracked with what he discussed with Lori Walsh on SDPB Monday. Here are the useful bits that stood out from last night’s Aberdeen speech:

  1. Dr. Virji emphasized he’d rather just be practicing medicine and serving the good people of Minnesota… even when one of his patients looks at his dark skin and says, “Oh, but you’re one of the good ones.” But when his son comes home from school in Trump’s America and says that one of his friends called his headscarf-wearing mom a “part-time suicide bomber,” he’s got to speak up against that ugly bigotry and ignorance.
  2. Most foreign doctors who practice in rural hospitals come here under contract, putting in a few years to get their immigration status, then racing off to the big city as soon as they finish their contracts. Dr. Virji is an exception. He recognized that rural America has 20% of America’s population but only 9% of America’s doctors and thus needs more doctors who will sacrifice big-city opportunities to serve rural medical needs. Dr. Virji is committed to “treating those who are most in need”… even when those most in need turn out to be wrong-headed Trump voters.
  3. While Dr. Virji makes no bones about the dangerous bigotry and irresponsibility of Donald Trump (“We have a child deciding the fate of the world”), he stresses that his speeches in Aberdeen and elsewhere about Islam are not partisan. He says he is neither a Republican nor a Democrat and finds good positions worth debating in both parties’ platforms. Dr. Virji is responding to the provocative rhetoric of a “Commander-in-Tweet” who speaks of putting Muslims on a registry, who says straight-faced that he could shoot someone in broad daylight and not lose supporters, and who appointed as national security advisor a man who called Virji’s religion a “cancer.”
  4. Dr. Vriji sees Trump’s dangerous racism in his response to this fall’s killing sprees. Trump responded to the Las Vegas, Texas, and California shootings, committed by white men, with the usual feckless thoughts-and-prayers language. Trump responded to the New York truck killings, committed by a Muslim man, with immediate, angry calls for new policies.
  5. (By the way, speaking of Trump’s tweets, remember the anti-Muslim video Trump shared yesterday supposedly showing a Muslim wrecking a statue of the Virgin Mary? Dr. Virji noted that we always see Jesus’s mom wearing a headscarf, but no one calls her a “part-time suicide bomber.”)
  6. Dr. Virji says Trump is stoking hate speech. He says that in the run-up to his speech at University of Minnesota–Morris Monday, swastikas were found on chalkboards. He mocked the Morris campus Republicans for putting up a sign outside their meeting saying “Everyone welcome except Islamic terrorists.” Ah, said, Dr. Virji, all the other terrorists must be welcome.
  7. Dr. Vriji says he has received death threats over his speeches. “Since when has talking about peace and love been so dangerous?”
  8. The primary solution to racism, bigotry, and other divisiveness in America is, says Dr. Virji, “Devotion to knowledge, not Fox News,” to real information over misinformation (errors) and disinformation (lies).
  9. One key expression of that devotion to knowledge lies in understanding both Islam and Christianity by understanding their founders, in their full historical context. Dr. Virji says we can’t understand Islam without Mohammed any more than we can understand Christianity without Jesus.
  10. Dr. Virji says that ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other terrorists recruit and grow by prooftexting the Qu’ran, using inferior, out-of-context readings of snippets of scripture to support their extreme views. Islamist radicals use the same over-selective tactics to make Christianity look bad by pointing out the violent actions of a few Christian radicals and other Westerners who aren’t following what Jesus taught.
  11. Dr. Virji said the anti-Islam radicals use the same tactics, prooftexting the Bible, wallowing in contextless literalism, and misrepresenting Islam by focusing all attention on a handful of contemporary extremists who claim to speak for all of Islam even as they fail to live by the principles Mohammed taught. Setting the bar low, Dr. Virji said, “Let’s be better than ISIS.”
  12. Dr. Virji noted that he went to Lutheran school for ten years and attended the Jesuit Georgetown University. He said he’s read his Bible several times. Referring to American prooftexters, he said, “I know your Book and I honor it and believe it more than you.”
  13. Dr. Vriji says Mohammed, the founder of Islam, would be the first to condemn ISIS and other radical Islamic terrorists. He says the Quran does not allow an offensive war.
  14. Dr. Virji says Islam is about verbs, not nouns. One does not win God’s favor by saying, “I’m a Muslim!” One wins God’s favor by practicing the virtues of the Quran. “Best of you are those who do good deeds,” Virji read from the Qu’ran. In that regard, said Virji, anyone practicing those virtues is a Muslim. (Curious: does that include atheists like me?)

Organizers of last night’s Wolf Talk took donations at the back. However, unlike the Aberdeen hate rallies, which have taken collections directly for the out-of-state speakers who come to sow racism and xenophobia, the collections last night were for Doctors Without Borders, Dr. Virji’s favorite charity.


  1. Jenny 2017-12-01 07:34

    Darn Cory you missed the most entertaining part. I wanted to hear the Aberdeen redneck QandA responses at the end. Do you know if the anti Muslim crowd showed up?

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