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Sen. Johnson: Despite differing opinions, Americans all share desire for peace

posted Feb. 19, 2017 12:00 a.m. | updated Feb. 19, 2017 8:59 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Samantha West

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    Staff photo by Steve Kinderman | Enlarge
    - U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson speaks Saturday at a question-and-answer session at the Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin mosque in Altoona.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said that while many Americans have differing views regarding President Donald Trump’s recent executive order of a travel ban and his immigration policy, it is important to emphasize what they do have in common: the desire for a peaceful, prosperous nation.

“As Americans, and I will say as global citizens … we all want safe, prosperous, secure communities, states, countries, world,” Johnson said to a room packed with community members, both Muslims and non-Muslims. “We are concerned about each other. There is no one political party, no one political movement that has monopoly on compassion.”

Johnson visited the Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin’s Altoona mosque Saturday afternoon for a question-and-answer session, which lasted about an hour.

 Johnson opened the discussion by first discussing America’s history as a “nation of immigrants,” emphasizing the ban being temporary.

“Fortunately, in America we’ve done a better job of assimilating immigrant populations,” Johnson said. “That’s something we celebrate. We don’t ask them to renounce their culture or their heritage, but we do ask people to embrace this idea and concept of America, one that is based on individual liberty, individual freedom, separation of church and state.”

Those who asked questions criticized the senator for his outward support of Trump’s policies and his vote in favor of appointing Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education. Johnson countered similar remarks by saying he doesn’t support the president’s rhetoric, just the policies, to which one person in the crowd whispered, “But he doesn’t stand up for them, either.”

Johnson also said Trump was not at fault for the “mess” the Obama administration left him, mainly in former president Barack Obama’s decision to leave Iraq.

“We didn’t leave a supporting force … Humpty Dumpty’s fallen off the wall, he’s in a million pieces,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take awhile to put him back together again.”

Emily Anderson, a 37-year-old resident of Eau Claire who identifies as a Lutheran, said she attended the event because she feels it can be difficult to get in touch with government representatives directly.

“It can be hard to feel, in such a polarized climate, that you’re being heard,” Anderson said.

Sahar Taman, a Chippewa Falls resident and member of the mosque, who immigrated from Egypt when she was 11 years old, said she attended for similar reasons.

“I knew this was an opportunity to speak to Senator Johnson and have people not part of the mosque to congregate with us,” Taman said. “That’s a stronger message to the senator — you’re not just meeting with a few people, with only Muslims, but those of all faiths.”

Mansur Javaid, a member of the mosque, said he felt the visit fostered a lot of “positive discussion” and overall went well despite clear differences in ideologies.

“I thnk the senator has some views which obviously he’s willing to modify and I think some views we all agree with,” Javaid said. “I think he was willing to listen and be constructive ... When he had a disagreement about it, he was forthcoming about it.”

Although Anderson said she was glad Johnson answered questions, she said she wanted more from the senator.

“I like to believe it’s coming from a place of genuine concern, but I still feel he puts ideology above his constituents,” she said. “I would like to call on the senator to take a leadership role and boldly standing up when the president says things that aren’t true.” 

Contact: samantha.west@ecpc.com, 715-833-9203, @samanthawest196