A source sent us an eyewitness written report of last week's "Sharia 101" talk by Jeff Baumann in St. Cloud. According to the meeting notes, the group--which calls itself "Peace in St. Cloud"--is planning to invite a stridently anti-Muslim Christian evangelical:
The group is inviting Usama Dakdok to town towards the end of May to talk. Usama is an anti-Muslim preacher with the Straight Way Ministries who grew up in Egypt as a Coptic Christian. His videos include such charmers like, “Every Muslim is a Demon!” [links added]
Should Dakdok accept the invitation and the group follow through with its plans, the visit won't be Dakdok's first visit to Minnesota this spring. According the Worldview Weekend Conferences webpage, the preacher will speak at rallies in Bloomington (April 3) and Duluth (April 4), before moving on to a rally just over the river in LaCrosse, Wisconsin on April 5.
Dakdok spoke in Austin and Rochester in 2011, but gained notoriety in Minnesota after speaking engagements in Bagley and just over the river in Grand Forks provoked protest and conflict. Recent appearances in Bemidji, largely attended by elderly people, went on without protest according to a Forum Communications staff writer's report, 'Islam is a barbaric, savage cult,' Usama Dakdok tells crowd in Bemidji.
Dakdok's provocative talks in Grand Forks earned a place in the Washington Post story, Trump’s effect on Muslim migrant debate reverberates in heartland, which looked at Grand Forks after the appearance of Nazi graffiti on, and firebombing of, the Juba Cafe.
The Star Tribune's Maya Rao reports in St. Cloud comes to grips with clashes between immigrants, longtime locals that "Peace in St. Cloud" is planning confrontations:
Baumann encouraged people to go to interfaith dialogues and public talks on Islam in Mankato, Brooklyn Park and, next week, at St. Cloud State University. Baumann said that people should go to the foot-washing station at the SCSU student union and use it to “make a scene.” The station was installed in 2001 after a Muslim student slipped and hit her head while washing her feet at a bathroom sink.
“If they’re challenged, ask ‘Is this Muslim-only or is this a public facility?’ ” said Baumann, adding that someone should bring a video camera to make sure that it has an effect.
Our witness's notes were a bit more detailed about the action planned for this afternoon:
The group also intends to disrupt the event on February 2nd being put on at SCSU and featuring CAIR’s Jaylani Hussein talking about Islamophobia. They have planned a direct action for this. Baumann strongly encourages PISC members to try to wash their feet in the foot-washing basin at Atwood. He hopes this will lead to a confrontation where Muslim students try to keep the elderly, white Christians from using what is a public facility. He hopes that images of Muslims yelling at PISC members for trying to wash their feet in the foot washing basin will prove to the media and the state that it is a de facto Muslim-only space paid for with tax money, and an example of creeping Sharia law.
NOTE: Because of the blizzard, Jaylani Hussein's talk has be rescheduled:
New date: 9 Feb, 5pm, still at Ritsche Auditorium. Event rescheduled due to weather. https://t.co/W7vKtwn3Uo— SCSU Library (@SCSU_Library) February 2, 2016
The decision on the part of "Peace In St. Cloud" to invite Dakdok, while insisting that their guests' inflammatory assertions about Islam and refugees suggests that the group is more interested in stirring the pot than promoting peace.
Unpaid volunteer St. Cloud Times columnist A.J. Kern has also announced a bid for Congress, challenging Tom Emmer for the endorsement. Someone has to bring the good times in the Sixth when former congresswoman Michele Bachmann almost lost the district to DFL hotel guy Jim Graves.
Worldview Weekend Rallies in Bloomington and Duluth
The Worldview Weekend Conference webpage lists two Dakdok speaking engagements at rallies in Minnesota in early April. The first is billed as "St Paul" but is in fact being held in Bloomington on April 3 :
Time: 5:30pm to 9:00pm
Location: Marriott Bloomington
2020 American Boulevard East
Bloomington, MN 55425
Dakdok's "Truth About Islam" online radio show is part of Christian conspiracy theorist and Ted Cruz/David Barton critic Brannon Howse's stable of Christian talk radio talent. Right Wing Watch's posts on Howse suggest that this branch of anti-Islam activists also have problems with Mormons, Glenn Beck, the New Apostolic Reformation, prophetic evangelicals, the Seven Mountains Movement and so much more.
Dakdok and Howse appear together at all three events.
But the pseudo-scholarship that Dakdok offers should allow the "Peace In St. Cloud" group to probe their butt-hurt about the rejection of their "facts" by the unfeeling progressive masses.
Earlier Dakdok appearances in Greater Minnesota and Grand Forks
In Bagley schools deny anti-Islamic speaker, the Grand Fork Herald reported:
Protesters gathered outside the Calvary Evangelical Free Church in Bagley to decry the message of Usama Dakdok.
Originally slated to speak at the Bagley High School from Sunday through Tuesday, Dakdok's location was shifted to the church. The school had received calls from people who disagreed with Dakdok's anti-Islamic message.
"We asked to change the venue to the church because the speaker did not appear to coincide with school district policy," said Steve Cairns, superintendent of Bagley Public Schools. "The appropriateness of the conversation appeared to be more in tune with the church."
Cairns said that after changing the venue, calls from community members both supporting and criticizing the decision were received.
Dakdok spoke at Calvary Evangelical Free Church on Sunday and Monday before a full house, according to a representative of the church, with about a dozen protesters outside. Pastor Rick Moore could not be reached for comment.
"That's why we needed the school," Dakdok said. "We needed more room."
Dakdok describes himself as an Egyptian-born Christian who was taught Islam in a government school in Egypt. He came to the United States in 1992 and has since been preaching his ministry in an effort to "reach out to the Muslim people with the word of Jesus Christ."
Dakdok does not believe his message is inappropriate. He said he only speaks the truth and his ministry, The Straight Way of Grace Ministry, "teaches truth, not hate."
The Council on American-Islamic Relations disagrees. CAIR is an American Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. CAIR-MN claims Dakdok's message, if delivered in an educational facility, would violate the district's harassment and violence policy and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"By spewing his hate-filled views in a school auditorium, Mr. Dakdok would have created the perception that his bigotry has the endorsement of educational authorities," Lori Saroya, executive director of CAIR-MN, said in a news release. . . .
But the next year, the tables turned, though the divisiveness remained, MPR's John Enger reported in In Bagley, tension over religion and free speech, Muslims and Christians:
For the last year and half, Bagley has been the center of a struggle over religious rights and freedom of speech -- a struggle which has focused unwanted attention on the small northern Minnesota town.
When a Muslim speaker came to the Bagley area to talk about his culture and faith, longtime residents later invited a touring speaker who railed against "the disease of Islam."
To help allay fears about those who practice the faith, half a dozen Muslim teachers and advocates from the Twin Cities are headed to Bagley this Saturday to mingle with locals.
"A lot of people in Bagley haven't really met any Muslims," said Lori Saroya, executive director of the Minnesota branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "We want them to see that we're just regular Minnesotans."
Saroya hopes the picnic will put to rest the months of strife sparked innocently enough, in a church basement more than a year ago.
Northern Exposure to Lifelong Learning, a community education program based in Bagley brought in Owais Bayunus, a Muslim speaker to talk about his religion. He spoke in the basement of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. A small crowd showed. He would have come and gone with very little notice, if one member of the audience had not been confused by a few things he said.
Tammy Godwin thought the teacher wasn't clear on who exactly qualified as an "infidel" according to the Quran. She is a evangelical Christian but makes a hobby of researching other religions to see how they differ from her own.
Hoping for clarification, she wrote an email to Usama Dakdok, a Christian who grew up in Egypt and now tours the United states speaking against Islam.
"I had no idea it would turn into the circus it did," she said.
She corresponded with Dakdok for a few weeks and found his arguments against Islam very compelling. She invited Dakdok to speak in Bagley in October of last year and rented the Bagley high school auditorium. But days before he arrived in his RV, CAIR got wind of the event.
Its members sent some letters to the Bagley School District demanding the event be cancelled and district Superintendent Steve Cairns called off Dakdok's speech.
Instead, he spoke at Calvary Evangelical Free Church in Bagley, where Godwin is a member for three nights and a few hundred people.
Outside, there were protesters with signs. From Dakdok's first visit tension in the community escalated.
Lawyers at the Liberty Council working on behalf of Dakdok sent a letter to the Bagley School District demanding he be allowed to speak in the high school auditorium based upon his First Amendment right to free speech. In June the district relented and Dakdok spoke for another three nights.
He was met by larger crowds and even more protesters, including local Rev. Scott Morey who leads three small Lutheran churches in the area. . . .
The presentation is remembered now mostly for one incident. The Star Tribune's Jennifer Brooks reported in Anti-Islam speeches in Bagley decried:
A controversial preacher was scheduled to speak again in Bagley, Minn., Monday night about his belief that Islam is a dangerous cult, despite protests and appeals to the local school district to ban the event from school grounds.
“With the wisdom God gave me I know how bad the disease of Islam is,” Usama Dakdok told the Bemidji Pioneer last week, after the school district reversed course and allowed him to rent the Bagley High School auditorium for his three-day event.
A Muslim woman who attended one of Dakdok’s speeches over the weekend reported that she was harassed by the speaker and his audience, prompting renewed calls for the district to shut down the event.
“We support freedom of speech, and that freedom includes the right to peacefully listen to even hate speech without fear of being set upon by an angry and threatening mob,” Lori Saroya, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Minnesota, said in a statement Monday.
CAIR, a civil rights and legal advocacy group for Minnesota Muslims, described the speech as a “hate event.”
“People were yelling at the Muslim woman, ‘Get out’ and ‘You weren’t invited,’ ” the CAIR news release continued.
The woman, who had participated in a protest outside the venue before the Sunday speech, walked into the auditorium carrying a protest sign, said Bagley Police Chief Larry Peterson, who was called to the school before the speech started and stayed for the duration.
“One side of the coin said she was looking for a seat. The other side of the coin said she was protesting,” Peterson said.
“But nothing got physical. No threats. No mob,” Peterson added. “It was just a discussion initiated by both parties and both parties were participating.” ...
Read the rest at the Strib. Dakdok spoke again in Bagley in 2015.
In Anti-Islam Christian speaker Usama Dakdok draws protests, crowds in GF; to speak in Bagley Wednesday night, the Grand Forks Herald reported:
Outside of the Empire Arts Center Tuesday, the sidewalk was filled with more than 150 people standing silently in the afternoon sun.
They had marched north on North Fourth Street before turning left toward the theater and filling nearly an entire block.
As cars drove by, some people stood and smiled with their hands in their pockets.
Others stood holding cardboard signs promoting peace, love and coexistence with quotes from the likes of Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Jr. . . .
Dakdok pulls short passages from both the Bible and Quran and then puts them next to each other to draw his conclusions, one of which was "Allah is Satan" in the opening minutes of his speech.
He employs similar strategies in the “Frequently Asked Questions section: of his website, www.thestraightway.org, which he said he writes the answers to himself. One entry states "Allah desires to fill hell with humans."
He also said that President Barack Obama, as well as his entire family, is Muslim, citing a portion of the Quran that says Muslims can lie about their faith.
Well then. The speaker returned twice in the fall. In early September, the Herald reported that Dakdok back for rebuttal, protesters not. Those who might have protested were at an "event organized by social justice advocates at St. Paul's Episcopal Church to counter Dakdok's event and to promote diversity and compassion" scheduled for the time of the rebuttal.
The meeting is described in Local leaders to hold meeting in response to anti-Islam event.
Unfortunately, some local leaders made the tactical fumble described in Local leaders look to shut down hate speech after anti-Islam speaker visits again, which to concerns about the suppression of free speech. While city council member Bret Weber defended his actions in No one is questioning Dakdok's right to speak, the damage was done and the inflamatory speaker returned for one more 2015 appearance.
His third visit generated headlines like Bjerke, Dakdok team up for freedom of speech event and Council member defends anti-Islam speaker Usama Dakdok, says college is 'dangerous' for free speech. (More dangerous than Iran or North Korea, though we don't think we need to fact-check than hyperbole).
Are Dakdok's St. Cloud hosts hoping for another Grand Forks?
Bluestem suspects that the presumptive Dakdok hosts are hoping for the bone-headed reaction prompted by anti-refugee, former Minuteman Civil Defense Corps of California member Ron Branstner scheduled appearance at the Granite VFW post (the post was not a sponsor). The event was cancelled, but another anti-refugee speaker talked.
This prompted a protest first scheduled to be at the VFW, but moved to another location. Regardless, the damage was done: the anti-refugee organizers looked like victims. It was a real-world version of feeding the trolls.
Let's hope that who see Dakdok's interpretation of Islam as error-filed as his claim that President Obama is a Muslim instead spend some time documenting why yelling "Every Muslim is a Demon" is total malarky in advance of his appearances in Bloomington, Duluth and St. Cloud.
Censorship isn't the American answer--criticism is. We can only imagine the whining that those promoting Dakdok's divisive demonizing (literally demonizing) will have about their "free speech rights" when confronted by a few solid factsheets.
Or by the fact-checks that the local paper conducts.
Don't demand that Dakdok not speak. By all means protest. Point out the weaknesses and falsehoods in his claims--and question the need of the "Peace in St. Cloud" organizers to provoke anything but harmony.
Photo: Dakdok in Bemidji.
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