Former mayor, cop, confirmed boozer renders his opinion on Mayor Hagen’s opinion. You don’t see headlines of lutherans, catholics, jews or other religious folks bombing and beheading, do you?

Former mayor’s view: Don’t conflate ‘Muslim’ with ‘terrorist’
By Herb Bergson Today at 12:10 a.m.

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I have a question for my dear friends in the Twin Ports: Do you know what “Muslim” means?

I was deeply disappointed in the recent comments made by someone I always have respected. I like to think Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen and I have respect for each other, after debating many times in 1987 before I was elected mayor.
The mayor used the 1st Amendment in defense of his comments last week regarding Muslims (“Superior mayor stands by comment about Obama,” Dec. 23). Freedom of speech is a good thing, and, as all of you know, I was never shy about using that right myself a few hundred times when I was mayor in both Duluth and Superior. Many didn’t like it when I signed gay proclamations in both cities. Many didn’t like it when I condemned Christopher Columbus as a slave trader and murderer. Those statements brought thousands of emails, phone calls and letters from those who didn’t like my opinions. But they were all elements of my free speech.

The crucial difference between statements made by me and those made by Hagen is that my statements were founded on fact. Many would agree it was inappropriate for Hagen to state, while speaking of first lady Michelle Obama, “Unbelievable! She and her Muslim partner have destroyed the fabric of democracy that was so very hard fought for!”

This statement — aside from being vague, hyperbolic and of poor partisan rhetoric — was Islamophobic at its very core.

First, the Obamas are Christian. The president has attended mosques for services, just like I often attended services at Lutheran churches, Methodist churches, Presbyterian churches and many more. I also have attended services at churches that open their doors to the gay community. When my fiancee, Ellen, and I travel back home to Superior, we go to Cathedral Church of Christ in Superior, just as as we both did as children. Just because we attend services at a church of another denomination does not mean we are of that sect. It means we want to learn about them and gain a better understanding of our differences and, more importantly, our similarities.

Our president’s willingness to be open-minded and attend services of religions that are not his own has enriched his own life as well as improved his ability to lead a diverse nation. While I never have attended a service at a mosque, I hope to attend someday with my stepson so I may educate myself.

Oh, no, does that mean I am “Muslim? Actually, I have two Muslim-American stepchildren. The older has completed his college studies in police science. I am proud to say that someday he will be a police officer. He will be a good officer. He is physically much stronger than I ever was when I served in the same capacity. Physical strength as a cop doesn’t matter as much as empathy, a quality for which he also is known. On his Friday afternoons off, he will attend his mosque to worship. He won’t plant any bombs and he won’t commit any mass murders.

The younger of my Muslim-American stepchildren is in college, studying alternative medicine. She is managing a very strong grade point average and hopes to use her education to help the world. She also maintains a strong voice for protecting animals, as she sees them so often mistreated. Like her brother, she has attended many holiday events with both of our families in Superior and at our cabin in Lake Nebagamon. We are very confident she will not plant any bombs or gun anyone down.

My point is that both of them are Muslim-Americans, and not only have they never harmed anyone, they both want to devote their lives to protecting those who cannot protect themselves, whether it be human or animal.

My stepchildren also have family members and friends who are Muslim and who are trapped in the Middle East. Last year, three of their family members were killed by terrorists in Syria. Perhaps those terrorists claimed they were Muslim, but they certainly weren’t practicing the writings of Islam or the Koran.

It’s important to remember that using religion as an excuse to slaughter is a recycled tactic thousands of years old. Those Muslims are running from the very thing we are fighting against. They are victims, too.

On the Statue of Liberty is a plaque with a quotation from poet Emma Lazarus. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” it reads, in part. “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Have some of us gotten so selfish that we’ve forgotten these words? Have we forgotten where WE came from?

My forefathers came from Ireland, Germany and Iceland. Ellen’s family came from Ireland, France and Canada. They were all welcome, and I really don’t care to hear from someone who says, “That was a different day.” There were murderers back then also.

This country belongs to the real Native Americans. Some scholars claim the population of Native Americans in 1492 was as high as 112 million. Our forefathers invaded this country, traded the Indians as slaves, murdered them, and raped their women and children. I guess some of us forgot that or never knew it.

And we fear men, women and children now who are refugees and who just want to escape similar torture.

In the 1940s, we feared the American Germans and the Asian-Americans. It was because some of them were terrorists. Should we have feared those terrorists? Absolutely! In the 1960s, we feared the blacks. I guess we always have feared gay people (although I have no idea why, because they have never harmed anyone). It seems people have a habit of fearing things they don’t understand. Chalk it up to human nature.

That said, by all means, fear the killers, the terrorists, the rapists and the child molesters. But don’t fear a religion. Doing so is misdirected and illogical. Islam is not a militant group; it is a religion.

It was not right for Hagen to imply that Muslims should be feared, not when the truth is that true Muslims do not kill people. Terrorists kill people. An FBI study found that self-proclaimed Muslims carried out only 6 percent of the terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil between 1980 and 2005. If Muslims were to have carried out all terrorist attacks since 1970 (which is ridiculous, considering the FBI study), they still would represent only 0.00009 percent of all Muslims. Statistically, you are more likely to get hit by lightning than a Muslim is to commit a terrorist attack.

To hear someone I have always respected suggest that a religious group has “destroyed the fabric of democracy that was so very hard fought for” was deplorable and insulting. Hagen owes an apology to Muslims. He also needs to educate himself on the denomination of the president and his family.

Public leaders should be promoting direction. People look to us for direction. Hagen essentially told Superiorites to dislike people who go to a different church. I am sorry for him.

What does “Muslim” mean? Translated, it means, “Anyone who submits to the will of God.”

Herb Bergson is a Duluth native living now in Madison, Wis. He was mayor of Superior from 1987 to 1995 and was mayor of Duluth from 2004 to 2008. He also was a Superior police officer.

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