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 

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 

The political impotence of the Muslim American community

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Sheikh Hamza Yusuf speaks during a fund raising event at the Alliance Francis in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on July 2, 2015 [File: AP/Kamran Jebreili] [Daylife]

There was a time when Islam was a revolutionary force in America. Decades ago, “Muslim” was a political identity grounded in an ethos of dissent, exemplified by Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. Being Muslim meant standing up against white supremacy and global empire, whether in Alabama or Vietnam; it meant standing in solidarity with the struggles of black and brown people everywhere.

Today, many American Muslims eagerly claim the legacy of brothers Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X as their own, but lack the political courage and moral integrity by which they lived.

We have become a community without a principled political vision, impotent in the face of state oppression: the continuous FBI surveillance and entrapment and ever-expanding anti-Muslim legislation. Not only are we unable to organise on these issues, but we have also lost the common ethical ground that could unite us around a common political vision and action.

Until recently, despite the divisions within the community, the Muslim American community seemed united at least in its opposition to the Trump administration; that appeared to be the lowest common denominator of a shared American Muslim political identity. But then on July 8, Secretary of State and top Islamophobe Mike Pompeo announced the creation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights to advise the Trump administration – a serial human rights violator – on human rights. One of our most prominent leaders, Hamza Yusuf, accepted to become part of the theatrics.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA

Ambivalent nativism: Trump supporters’ attitudes toward Islam and Muslim immigration

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Trump speaks at a campaign rally in HamptonEditor’s Note:This working paper is part of a multi-year Brookings project—”The One Percent Problem: Muslims in the West and the Rise of the New Populists.” Other papers in the series are available here.

Contents:

  1. Islam and the American Right
  2. Survey data on Trump voters’ attitudes towards Muslims and other groups
  3. Trump supporters’ views on Islam, national identity, and immigration in their own words
  4. Conclusion

Despite representing a little more than one percent of the total U.S. population,[1] American Muslims have long been viewed with suspicion by their fellow citizens. This has been true since the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis in the late 1970s, but American attitudes toward Islam turned especially negative following the September 11 terrorist attacks, which many American commentators blamed directly on Islamic religious doctrines.[2]

 

The political right in the United States, on average, has exhibited more suspicion of Islam and Muslims than the political left, and many conservative media personalities have expressed considerable hostility towards Muslims.[3] Other conservative political and intellectual leaders have called for religious tolerance, however. Thus, conservatives in the electorate have received mixed messages from elected Republicans and conservative opinion leaders. American attitudes toward Islam and Muslims became an especially important subject after Donald Trump was elected president on a right-wing populist platform that explicitly called for a ban on Muslim immigration. This paper examines Trump supporters’ views on questions of Islam, immigration, and national identity. Beyond asking whether Trump’s supporters favor exclusionary policies, I investigate how strongly these supporters feel about Islam, considering whether opposition to Islam is a critical part of their political worldview, or just one element of a broader nativism.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE SITE