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

In pictures: Thousands march in Paris against Islamophobia

FRANCE-SOCIAL-RELIGION-ISLAM-POLITICS-DEMOMore than 10,000 people marched against Islamophobia north of Paris. But the rally drew criticism from both the government and the far right.

It was called following last month’s attack on a mosque in the southern French city of Bayonne by an 84-year-old man, a former far-right activist, who shot and wounded two men.

Many of the protesters carried placards denouncing attacks on Islam, a number of women taking part wore traditional Muslim veils, while others had adopted veils bearing the blue, white and red colours of the French flag.

Around 13,500 people attended the march, according to a count carried out by the Occurence consultancy and commissioned by the news media, including AFP.

The march was called by a number of individuals and organizations, including the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF).

It also came as the debate over the veil has been revived in France and against a background of several jihadist attacks in France in recent years.

“We came to sound the alarm, to say there is a level of hate you don’t go beyond,” one marcher, Larbi, a 35-year-old businessman, told AFP.

“We are open to criticism, but you mustn’t go beyond certain limits of aggression,” he added.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LOCAL (FRANCE)

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 

Netflix’s ‘Ghosts of Sugar Land’ explores friendship, Islam, and religious extremism

GhostLandStill1The emboldening of bigotry and hatred is just one of the toxic facets that the current president of the United States campaigns upon. One of the targets of this hate is the Muslim community. From his earlier days of attempting to “slander” Barack Obama by claiming he was secretly Muslim, to his “Muslim ban” of 2017, Donald Trump has used this community to play upon fear and xenophobia. The new Netflix documentary Ghosts of Sugar Land briefly attempts to explore the ramifications of an anti-Muslim atmosphere through an intimate lens of friendship, personal faith, and extremism in the town of Sugar Land, Texas. The results are mixed, but provide impactful moments to inspire conversation.

Directed and co-written by independent filmmaker Bassam Tariq (These Birds Walk), with co-writer Thomas Niles (Phantom Cowboys) the short documentary provides testimony of a group of suburban Muslims from the town of Sugar Land as they attempt to reconcile the disappearance of a close friend and the consequences of his actions. Their friend, given the codename Mark in the film, is Warren Christopher Clark. Clark is a young Black man and childhood friend of the group who, in 2018, would go on to travel to Syria to join the extremist organization Islamic State (ISIS). Clark would eventually be captured by U.S.-backed forces in Syria and forced to face charges of terrorism. The film was produced shortly before Clark’s capture.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PEOPLES’ WORLD 

A Muslim and a Christian take a Muslim Roadshow to rural Washington

Story by Lilly A. Fowler | Photos by Matt M. McKnight

McKnight_MuslimRoadShow_31They’re not the sort of couple one is likely to encounter in many parts of the country: a hijab-wearing Muslim woman with a Harvard law degree and a white Lutheran pastor. Yet dozens of Washington state residents — in urban centers and in small rural towns — have witnessed Aneelah Afzali and Rev. Terry Kyllo preach together in churches. Turns out, Afzali and Kyllo have one profound thing in common: a passion to fight against Islamophobia.

Although the duo has held an event in Seattle, Afzali and Kyllo have generally reserved their sermons for smaller, more conservative towns filled with voters who support President Donald Trump and who may have never personally met a Muslim. Towns like Mt. Vernon, with a population of 35,000. Situated just 60 miles north of Seattle, Mt. Vernon is the largest city in Skagit County. In last year’s presidential election, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by fewer than 2,000 votes in the county.

On a recent Monday evening in Mt. Vernon, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Afzali addressed a small crowd. She was dressed in a purple suit and hijab, and she was flanked by American flags and a Christian cross. As wind and rain pounded the chapel’s windows, she shared what had inspired her and Kyllo to organize the talks, which they’ve dubbed the “Faith Over Fear Roadshow.”

“I am so extremely bothered by what I see happening around us today, the growing divisiveness, polarization, hate and even violence,” Afzali said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM FEATURES CROSS CUT 

Why Islamophobia Matters to You: Support Your Muslim Neighbor

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Five years as a Christian missionary in Asian Kazakhstan was a game changer for Steve Slocum, altering forever his view of Muslims and his understanding of Islam. Today, with anti-Muslim sentiment at an all time high, Mr. Slocum is on a mission to dispel rumors and myths about Muslims and to shed light on Islam’s peaceful mainstream in his debut book “Why Do They Hate Us? Making Peace with the Muslim World,” and through his work with SalaamUSA, a nonprofit he founded in 2018.

With the release of his debut book, Slocum takes a stand against Islamophobia and encourages his readers to see through the rising anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. and beyond. By taking the spotlight off the extremists, Slocum instead exposes the heart of the everyday Muslim through Christian outreach and clears up common misconceptions about jihad, Sharia law and the role of women in Islam.

When Slocum returned from his missionary work in 1997, he resumed his engineering career, but became uncomfortable with the growing animosity towards Muslims. “When 9/11 happened, just like everyone else, I was traumatized,” said Slocum. “Having experienced the generosity and hospitality of the Muslim Kazak culture, I couldn’t fathom Muslim radicals flying packed airliners into skyscrapers filled with people.”

After 9/11, the world became more fearful of Muslims, and the current political climate has only exacerbated the issue, culminating in the rise of horrific hate crimes like the New Zealand Mosque shooting. “I believe many Americans have never healed from the trauma of 9/11. Others have misconceptions about Islam fed by media coverage of extremists,” Slocum added.

Most Americans don’t even know a Muslim, and 55% say they know “little or nothing” about Islam, according to SalaamUSA. “In this void, Americans’ opinions about Islam are shaped by the media, political rhetoric, and religious bias,” said Slocum.

“Islamophobia is a present and rising force in the West.” says D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer at Midwest Book Review. “(Slocum) takes a stand against this prejudice by advocating a different approach to not just tolerating Muslims, but getting to know them on a personal level. In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt. It leads to understanding.”

FULL ARTICLE (AND INVITATION!) FROM PATCH 

Author Q&A: Charles Kimball on ‘Truth over Fear: Combating the Lies About Islam’

71sKXa55BuLWith memories of the 9/11 terrorist attacks still raw, Charles Kimball, a professor, Baptist minister and expert analyst on the Middle East, drew on three decades of experience to write a book released in 2002 about why people do bad things in the name of religion.

In When Religion Becomes Evil, Kimball, at the time a professor at Wake Forest University, identified five warning signs common to all religions – absolute truth claims, blind obedience, the impulse to establish an “ideal” time, belief that the end justifies the means and the declaration of holy war – and gave advice about how to recover what is best and healthy in all religions.

In his latest book, Truth over Fear: Combating the Lies about Islam, Kimball explores a new development in Christian-Muslim relations – the mainstreaming of Islamophobia as a pathway to political success.

Now presidential professor and chair of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, Kimball discussed ways Christians and Muslims can work together in this Q&A about the recent release of the new 180-page paperback published by Westminster John Knox Press.

Why did you write this book?

The 21st century may well be defined by interfaith relationships. The most dangerous and widespread flashpoints center on relationships between adherents of the world’s two largest religious communities: Christians and Muslims.

This book grows out of more than 40 years of work focused on my vocation with a teaching ministry and constructive interfaith cooperation in the U.S. and the Middle East. Speaking in more than 500 colleges, universities, seminaries, divinity schools, churches, mosques, synagogues, civic organizations, etc., I have a clear sense of the kinds of questions and concerns about Islam that foster widespread fear in the West.

While there remains a lot of goodwill, a large majority – including a large majority of Christian clergy – still lack the resources to address growing Islamophobia or pursue constructive programs with Muslims (and others) in their local setting.

This book seeks to address this urgent need by providing a new paradigm for how Christians and others of goodwill can better understand Islam as most Muslims live out their faith. And, it offers an accessible guide for positive initiatives individuals and congregations can take to work toward a more healthy future between Christians and Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BAPTISM NEWS