Twin Oaks Lanes, located at 2816 West Sylvania Avenue, is pictured Tuesday, April 24, 2018, in Toledo.
“Now we are friends,” Imam Talal Eid of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, said, surprisingly, after a meeting with the West Toledo bowling alley owner who became the subject of planned protests over his habit of social media posts slurring Muslims and Arabs.
Jeff Kuhnle, owner of Twin Oaks Lanes, had agreed to meet with Toledo-area Muslim leaders after a community group began organizing the protest.
Mr. Kuhnle had previously brushed off complaints about his hateful remarks, saying he and his family had been attacked or harassed in public by Muslims.
A campaign to protest in front of the Kuhnle family’s bowling alley picked up steam as organizers shared screenshots of his social media posts in which he used phrases such as “muk-muks” and “towel heads,” as well as complained that Muslims were trying to “take over” and bragged about eating bacon in restaurants to taunt other diners he believed were Muslim.
Mr. Kuhnle’s apparently long-held bigotry is abhorrent. And the proof about whether he has really had a change of heart after meeting Imam Eid will be in how he treats his customers, neighbors, and fellow Toledoans in the future. But at least he was willing to meet.
Research tells us that while there are ways to change racist attitudes, condemning people’s racism — no matter how deserving it is of condemnation — is not one of them.
Huge credit in this case belongs to Imam Eid, who certainly had every reason to turn away and refuse to have anything to do with a man who behaved so hatefully. Instead, Imam Eid reached out and sought to make the genuine human connection that can change hearts.
Toledo has a long and beautiful history of being a warm, welcoming, multi-cultural community. Let’s hope Mr. Kuhnle is ready to join that community.
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