The real Muslims of Hawaii: WSJ digs below the surface after Trump's travel ban blocked

After a federal judge in Hawaii blocked President Donald Trump's revised executive order on immigration and refugees, the Wall Street Journal dispatched Los Angeles-based national religion writer Ian Lovett to Honolulu.

Talk about a tough assignment! (And, by the way, could you please sign me up?)

In my time with The Christian Chronicle, I've been blessed to report from all 50 states and 10 countries. This probably won't surprise you, but the Aloha State was one of my favorite to visit.

I don't know if Lovett got to spend any time at the beach or if he was too busy working, but his excellent feature captures the mood — and concerns — of the island state's Muslims in the Trump era.

The lede explains Hawaii's surprising role in the controversy:

HONOLULU — With only a few thousand Muslim residents, Hawaii would seem an unlikely place to challenge — and halt — President Donald Trump’s travel ban.
Only a half-dozen of refugees are settled here each year. The small Muslim community has quietly thrived, away from the conflicts on the mainland. They built a mosque in the hills overlooking Waikiki, celebrated the end of Ramadan on the beach and enjoyed good relationships with neighbors in this multicultural state. Anti-Islamic threats or hate speech was virtually unheard of, Muslims here say.
But all of that has abruptly changed in recent weeks, as Hawaii’s Muslim community has found itself at the center of the nationwide battle over immigration and Islam’s place in American society.
Anti-Muslim incidents have jumped since late last year, Muslims here say, and members of the community have been separated from their families by Mr. Trump’s travel ban.
The state of Hawaii—along with the imam at the mosque here, Ismail Elshikh—sued to stop the revised ban from taking effect, saying it was motivated by religious animus toward Muslims. On Wednesday night, a federal judge agreed and put the order on hold.

From there, the Journal does a really nice job of quoting Muslims in Hawaii and letting them describe their own experiences. The piece puts real faces on the random Muslims we hear so much about.

I wish the narrative that anti-Muslim incidents are up was less squishy — with more concrete statistics and confirmation by authorities. But to Lovett's credit, he quotes a Honolulu police spokeswoman concerning two incidents and notes that other cases — "small expressions of hate" — have not risen to the level of reportable crimes. Sometimes, anecdotal evidence is the only kind available.

Certainly, the Journal avoids the kind of overreach seen in many "Islamophobia" reports.

All in all, it's a great piece of quick-hit journalism.

To Lovett and the Journal, I say: Mahalo!

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