BOISE — Idaho legislators and the public were invited to hear a presentation on Muslims and the persecution of Christians by anti-Islam pastor Shahram Hadian at the Capitol Wednesday.
Hosted by Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, the event featured Spokane-based Hadian, Pastor Mark Lori-Amini from western Washington and former Taliban prisoner of war Ashegh Masih. All three are former devout Muslims and spoke out against the teaching of the religion, shared tales of religious persecution in America and abroad, and called for the over two dozen audience members to fight the influences of religious fundamentalism.
Members of the audience included Scott, Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, and Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, along with interested members of the public and pastors.
Hadian talked about his experiences leaving Iran as a young child after its socially liberal monarchy fell to the Islamic fundamentalist regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. He cautioned the audience, claiming Muslims around the world are growing more radicalized, attacking Christians and embracing ideology in the Quran that encourages violence. Hadian said he doesn’t hate Muslims, but instead wants to preach to them and bring them into the Christian faith.
“The elephant in the room is, and we don’t want to talk about it is, the number one perpetrator of persecution against Christians is coming from the Muslim world,” he said. “You have three former Muslims sitting here in front of you who will say they lived it.”
Hadian’s message has been controversial with Muslims and others in the region for years.
He cautioned against areas of the country that have a large portion of Muslim residents, like Grand Rapids Minnesota, which he called “enclaves.” Hadian said if there are large portions of Muslims in one area, they do not adopt American values.
“We have no problem with diversity of religion, but you must assimilate to our laws,” he said, to a round of applause from the room.
In response to his message, Reshma Kamal from the Islamic Center of Boise said it is dangerous to generalize all of the world’s more than 1 billion Muslims as radicals.
“The best part of our country is he has a right to speak,” she said. “But we don’t have to buy into every speech everyone makes. To generalize Islam as a religion into the kind of hate mongering that he talks about, that is completely absurd.”
Following the presentation, Scott said she felt it was important to bring the speakers to the statehouse to show legislators what she and other conservatives say is facing American Christians today.
“There are many persecuted Christians around the country,” she said. “I think it is good to bring awareness to these issues.”