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House Speaker Paul Ryan meets with local Muslims, religious activists

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Jake Magee
Thursday, June 2, 2016

JANESVILLE—Despite Paul Ryan's endorsement of Donald Trump, Fellowship of Reconciliation leaders and local Muslims have confidence the House speaker will be a strong ally in the fight against Islamophobia.

Ryan met Thursday with Fellowship of Reconciliation members Kristin Stoneking and Anthony Grimes and Janesville mosque owner Salih Erschen, among others, to discuss how to end religious intolerance and stop hate crimes against Muslim Americans.

Those who met with Ryan were pleased he agreed it's important to express tolerance for other religions. They hope Ryan will start a national dialog on the issue, but Ryan made no promises he could start such a dialog, Stoneking and others said during a press conference Thursday after meeting with Ryan.

The organization members and Muslim families hope to hear back from Ryan's office soon.

Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the country. Ryan announced his endorsement of the Republican presidential frontrunner Thursday.

Those who met with Ryan realize his backing of Trump is a necessity of politics. Ryan expressed frustration at some of Trump's views surrounding Muslims but didn't go into specifics, Stoneking said.

“I know one of the big things for him (Ryan) is to try to unite the base, as it is, and unfortunately, this is part of the politics that we're in right now,” Erschen said. “I would hope that while it might be politically necessary to do what he's doing he would also do what he can to restrain some of the more extreme elements of what this presidential candidate is going to be about.”

Muslims are intertwined with America's greatest jobs and demographics from universities to hospitals to Ryan's own entourage, Erschen said.

“If you try to run all the Muslims out of America, you will get rid of the best of what America's about, and it can't happen. It just simply can't happen,” he said.

Hate crimes against Muslims have more than tripled in the past year in the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks, Grimes said.

“That's unacceptable in our country,” he said.

Fellowship of Reconciliation is a non-partisan organization, and Islamophobia is a non-partisan issue. The organization typically aligns with Democrats, making Ryan, a Republican, an “unlikely partnership,” Stoneking said.

“It's an exciting potential because there are common goals here, there's common ground, there's common concern, but there's a lot of common value to work from,” she said.

Fellowship of Reconciliation members don't have to agree with anyone they work with on every political point to accomplish good, Grimes said.

“Rep. Ryan made a bold stand for freedom of religion when he denounced proposals for a ban on Muslims,” Grimes said in a press release. “His willingness to speak out against those who would jettison core tenets of the Constitution makes him an ideal person to initiate a national discussion.”



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