Controversial anti-Islam speaker attracts twice the crowd in Willmar(Minnesota) with protest and prayer vigil outside

110819.n.wct.BookClub1.0058WILLMAR — Usama Dakdok’s first visit to Willmar was a quiet and private affair last month, but his second visit was anything but that.

Two very different crowds gathered Thursday evening at the Kennedy Elementary School, where the Egyptian-born pastor of the Straight Way of Grace Ministry came to deliver his message that Islam is dangerous. It’s a message he’s been delivering to communities in Minnesota and other states for more than a decade.

Outside the school, well over 200 people joined under the message “we are better together” to celebrate Willmar for its cultural diversity. The diverse crowd, including many from Willmar’s Somali community, came in opposition to Dakdok, but focused on their message: Willmar is an inclusive and welcoming community.

The Rev. Dane Skilbred, Vinje Lutheran Church of Willmar, and Aden Hassan, imam for the Islamic Society of Willmar, joined in celebrating the city’s “welcoming resolution” in a formal address to the crowd. An interfaith group including leaders from ISAIAH, a coalition of faith communities, and the Islamic Society of Willmar helped organize the gathering as a prayer vigil.

Some who joined the event felt moved to grab the megaphone and offer their own words to celebrate the community.

“We are here for the right reason,” said Bonnie Hauser, semi-retired after serving as an elementary instructor in the Willmar Schools. Hauser told the audience that she was proud to be a Willmar teacher, where children of different ethnic and faith backgrounds learn together.

“This is what I know my community could be,” said Jessica Rohloff, a lifelong Willmar resident and a community organizer.

Najib Aqib, a member of Willmar’s Somali community, didn’t grab the megaphone, but he was among those who joined to support the prayer vigil. He said he moved to Willmar in 2005 and has found it to be a very welcoming community, and that is why he came to the event.

“This is the best place to live,” he told the West Central Tribune.

FULL ARTICLE AND VIDEO FROM WEST CENTRAL TRIBUNE

Preaching ‘hate’ for Islam, speaker arrives in a divided Willmar

Organizers plan to protest an appearance Thursday from Usama Dakdok, who has visited Minnesota dozens of times to convince his audience that Islam is dangerous.

e0e678-20161024-antiislam12John Burns had been living in Willmar, Minn., for some time, but one interaction in particular stands out. An acquaintance wanted to recruit him to a group that has been warning others about the dangers of Islam and the infiltration of Muslims into their west-central Minnesota community.

But Burns, 75, was the wrong guy. He’s been voicing concerns against anti-Islamic sentiments in the town, which is home to a growing Somali American population. He’s written letters to the editor, spoken at city council meetings and called every media outlet he could think of.

“These people often have the enthusiasm of somebody who’s just discovered a new religion that explains everything,” Burns said of a local group that bills itself as a patriotic Christian organization. “At some point it turns into fanaticism, and that’s troubling.”

The group, called “Thee Book Club,” has rented an auditorium Thursday evening at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar to host a controversial speaker who’s made his mark across Minnesota and beyond trying to convince attendees that Islam is a dangerous cult.

Usama Dakdok, a Christian who grew up in Egypt, visited northern Minnesota more than 20 times from 2015 to 2016, often speaking to rural communities with small or no Muslim populations. He’s back in Minnesota this week to address crowds in the communities of Backus and Willmar, where he’s spoken at least once before. He’s also taken his anti-Islam message to Rochester and St. Cloud and across the country.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MPR NEWS 

US: Two sentenced to prison for foiled terrorist plot on Muslims

The defendants showed remorse as the judge declared them a “threat to everyone in our democratic society.” The two men planned to use homemade explosives in a terrorist plot on a Muslim community in upstate New York.

50060299_303Two men were sentenced to between four and 12 years in prison on Friday after threatening to bomb a Muslim community in the United States.

Defendants Brian Colaneri, 20, and Andrew Crysel, 19, had both entered guilty pleas. Monroe County Court Judge Samuel Valleriani told the pair: “Your terrorist threat was not only an invidious threat to the way of life of your victims, but also a threat to everyone in our democratic society.”

Both defendants expressed remorse, including for conversations they conducted between themselves via an online chat room as part of the plot. The two men had previously pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy in June.

“I never wanted it to go that far,” Colaneri said, according to local media outlet WHEC.

They and two others from the Rochester area were accused of planning to attack Islamberg, a rural religious community in the area of Tompkins, 150 miles (240 kilometers) to the north of New York City. Authorities arrested the individuals in January and said they had access to 23 rifles and shotguns, as well as three homemade explosives.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DW.COM

Hostility to Islam has disguised a host of other prejudices

Erhard_Reuwich_Sarazenen_1486.pngIn 2011, when the editor of Charlie Hebdo put Muhammad on the cover, he did so as the heir to more than 200 years of a peculiarly French brand of anti-clericalism. Just as radicals in the Revolution had desecrated churches and smashed icons, so did cartoonists at France’s most scabrous magazine delight in satirising religion. Although Catholicism was their principal target, they were perfectly happy to ridicule Islam too. If Jesus could be caricatured, then why not Muhammad?

Sure enough, one year after the prophet’s first appearance on the cover of Charlie Hebdo, he was portrayed again, this time crouching on all fours and with his genitals bared. The mockery would not cease, so the magazine’s editor vowed, until ‘Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism’. This would be, in a secular society, for Muslims to be treated as equals.

Except that they were not being treated as equals. The scorning of Islam was a tradition in France that reached back far beyond the time of Voltaire and Diderot. The earliest European caricature of Muhammad served to illustrate a work by Peter the Venerable, a 12th-century abbot in Burgundy. Peter’s Summa totius haeresis Saracenorum — ‘A Summary of the Entire Heresy of the Saracens’ — did what it said on the tin. Islam was a monstrous perversion of Christian teachings. Not merely a heresy, it was the sump of all heresies. Muhammad, its founder, was ‘the chosen disciple of the Devil’. The caricature of him which accompanied Peter’s text duly showed him as a siren: a monstrous compound of the human and the bestial, luring the unwary to their doom.

This portrayal of Muhammad as a heresiarch, a charlatan who had thrived by twisting the truths of Christianity to his own pestilential ends, was in turn heir to an even older tradition. As John Tolan points out in his new book, condemnation of Islam as a heresy did at least derive from a recognition on the part of Latin Christians that it was not an entirely alien faith: that it honoured the biblical prophets; that it laid claim to a divine law; that it was monotheistic.

FULL REVIEW FROM THE SPECTATOR (UK)

How Western attitudes towards Islam have changed

BUSHLess than a week after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York on 11 September 2001, US President George W. Bush gave a remarkable speech about America’s “Muslim Brothers and sisters”. “These acts of violence,” he declared, “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.” After quoting from the Quran, he continued, “The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam. That’s not what Islam is all about. Islam is peace.”

This speech is remarkable, not only for its compassion towards Muslims in the face of the attack on the US, but also because Bush was contradicting what has been, since the beginnings of Islam, the standard Western perception of this religion – namely that it is, at its core, a religion of violence.

Since its beginnings in the Arabia of the 7th century CE, the religion of Muhammad the prophet had pushed against the borders of Christendom. Within 100 years of the death of Muhammad in 632 CE, an Arabian empire extended from India and the borders of China to the south of France. Militarily, early Islam was undoubtedly successful.

Since that time, for the Christian West, regardless of the Islamic precept and practice of religious tolerance (at least as long as non-Muslims did not criticise the prophet), Islam has remained often threatening, sometimes enchanting, but ever-present. Indeed, the West created its own identity against an Islam that it saw as totally other, essentially alien, and ever likely to engulf it.

Thus, from the 8th century to the middle of the 19th, it was the virtually unanimous Western opinion that Islam was a violent religion whose success was due to the sword.


Read more: In spite of their differences, Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God


That Islam is, at its core, a violent religion is an attitude still present among some today. In the aftermath of the horrific murder of 50 Muslims in Christchurch by an Australian right wing nationalist, the conservative Australian politician Fraser Anning declared (straight out of the West’s medieval playbook), “The entire religion of Islam is simply the violent ideology of a sixth century despot masquerading as a religious leader, which justifies endless war against anyone who opposes it and calls for the murder of unbelievers and apostates.” Any violence against Muslims, he suggested, was therefore their own fault.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION (AUSTRALIA) 

‘If you enter a camp, you never come out’: inside China’s war on Islam

In Hotan, documents show officials are expanding detention camps and increasing surveillance

The Luopu County No 1 Vocational Skills Training Centre is hard to miss. It emerges suddenly, a huge campus towering over hectares of farmland.

Outside the compound, surrounded by tall white concrete walls lined with barbed wire and surveillance cameras, a police car patrols while several guards carrying long batons stand watch. The centre, which straddles a highway, is bigger than most of the surrounding villages – about 170,000sq metres. A banner on one building says: “Safeguard ethnic unity.”

Half a dozen people stand on the roadside, staring at the buildings. No one is willing to say exactly what this prison-like facility is or why they are waiting on its perimeter.

Images of Xinjiang, China, taken in December as part of a Guardian investigation into the mass detention of Uighur Muslims across China.
 Images of Xinjiang, China, taken in December as part of a Guardian investigation into the mass detention of Uighur Muslims in China. Photograph: Lily Kuo for the Guardian

They are reluctant to talk because the building is not a formal prison or university, but an internment camp where Muslim minorities, mainly Uighurs, are sent against their will and without trial for months or even years.

Researchers and residents say southern Xinjiang, where the Luopu County No 1 Vocational Skills Training Centre is located, has borne the brunt of the government’s crackdown on Muslims because of its density of Uighurs and distance from major cities.

“We have a saying in Hotan: If you go into a concentration camp in Luopu, you never come out,” said Adil Awut*, from Hotan City, who is now living overseas.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Retired soldier educating South about Islam

1FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — When Jason Criss Howk’s Army career came to an end in 2015, he thought he’d spend his days teaching and fishing.

But a wake-up call at a Pinehurst library changed those plans. And while Howk does teach, he’s found a new mission, too: Explaining the Middle East, Islam and Muslim culture to a population that has little experience, but strong opinions on those topics.

At times, it has been a combative undertaking.

Howk has spoken at small rural churches across the Southeast and has, on occasion, had to be escorted to his car by church leaders at the end of the night.

But that hasn’t stopped his one-man mission to better educate America and, in the process, help promote tolerance.

His efforts have expanded since he retired. In 2017, he published “The Quran: A Chronological Modern English Interpretation” through Old Stone Press. The book is intended for audiences that have little familiarity with Islam, the Quran or Muslim culture.

And earlier this year, he launched a podcast called “We’re Just Talking About It.”

Howk’s interest in Islam is tied to his experiences as a soldier.

He served as an enlisted paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division in the 1990s and returned as an officer a decade later.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ARMY TIMES