Op/Ed: "Standing Up to Prejudice" by H.D.S. Greenway

August 1, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe


On August 1, 2006 The Boston Globe published a piece by its columnist, H.D.S. Greenway, "After his arrest, Brent Matthews, a 33-year-old trouble maker, said that rolling a pig's head into a mosque full of worshipers here last month was meant as a joke. However, this old mill town's 2,000 Somali Muslims -- out of a total population of 36,000 -- did not see the humor in it... Refugees from Somalia started coming here in numbers only about five years ago, and their integration into what is Maine's second-largest city has not been as smooth as it might have been. Somali refugees first came to Maine because that was where some were assigned. They chose Lewiston because housing was cheap and, in the words of one Somali mother, 'it seemed like a good place to bring up kids.' Lewiston grabbed national attention in 2002 when then-mayor Larry Raymond wrote an open letter to his Somali community asking them not to send for their relatives because Lewiston was 'maxed out, financially, physically, and emotionally.' Some cried racism, while a white supremacist group, World Church of the Creator, said it would descend on Lewiston to hold an anti-Somali immigrant rally early in 2003. That threat, in turn, spawned a local Lewiston group to promote tolerance called Many In One, which managed to attract 4,500 people while only 32 showed up for the white supremacist rally. Many In One held another rally earlier this month following the pig's head incident to support its Muslim neighbors... It is easy to forget that Roman Catholics were once considered the un-absorbable minority in America, as immigration expert Jose Casanova has pointed out, and easy to forget that a Catholic church was once burned to the ground by bigots in Lewiston. Although prejudice still remains, the pig's head incident is not going to be as damaging to community relations as I am sure Brent Matthews hoped."