Detroit Lakes rallies to its Muslim neighbors

A crowd of mostly white, mostly Christian residents of Detroit Lakes, Minn., wanted nothing to do with an anti-Muslim speaker who disrupted a “Meet Your Muslim Neighbors” night in the city this week.

Usama Dakdok, who has lectured against Islam and found an audience in northwest Minnesota and North Dakota in recent years, challenged speakers at the event on Sunday, according to Forum News Service.

During a question-and-answer period with Muslim American speakers — Dr. Fauzia Haider and Concordia College professor Ahmed Kamel — Dakdok rose and said they did not know what they were talking about.

“The doctor (Haider) said that we worship the same god,” Dakdok said. “Allah is not god… your Quran does not teach that Allah has a son, therefore Allah cannot be God.”

It was the beginning of an increasingly contentious exchange.

“Do you know the Quran better than me?” Haider retorted at one point. “Who is the Muslim, you or me?”

“I am a scholar, you are not,” Dakdok responded.

“What is this event about?” Haider asked the audience.

“Meeting our Muslim neighbors,” was the murmured response from the audience.

“Is every Muslim a theologian or a scholar or an imam?” Haider responded. “No. I am here to tell you how I practice my faith. They (the audience) are here to meet ordinary Muslims, not ISIS. ISIS does not represent me.”

Writing in an open letter on Detroit Lakes Online, Paula Quam, who attended the event said Dakdok didn’t find the audience he was looking for.

Yes, we are located in a mostly rural, mostly white, mostly Scandinavian part of the country. We’re not a big melting pot — we know that. We’re more of a crock pot full of tater tot hot dish.

Whether we realize it or not, many of us have fairly thick northern accents that, to some, may be misinterpreted as simple and a bit back-woodsey.

To be very, very honest, anybody who shows up here in traditional Islamic clothing and speaking another language will be probably be stared at. We’re not used to it. The majority of our community knows very little about Muslims, except what we see on TV, which leaves many people at least a little uneasy about it all.

Here is the thing, though. Just because we may seem like an easy target — a persuadable audience — doesn’t mean we are. The same stubborn, slow-to-change attitudes that many of us here have may mean we’re not the best at reaching out to newcomers, particularly if they are obviously different from us, but it also means we don’t take your word either.

Then Quam provided a guide on how to be a Minnesotan:

We are low maintenance. If somebody moves in next door, we generally only require a few things in order for them to earn our favor. Number one, we feel certain you are a good hearted person with no intent to harm. Number two, you work for your paycheck unless you are legitimately disabled. Number three, you shovel your own driveway.

Boom. We’re happy. We’re not a hateful group here, Mr. Dakdok. We assume that you learned that during your hate speech when you were told to sit down by audience members.

Our own police chief, Tim Eggebraaten, even sat down next to you like a teacher sitting down next to a misbehaved child, to ensure you didn’t stand back up. Are you grasping this by now, Mr. Daktok? Our community literally did not want you standing up.

We’re not perfect, but we’re not you. We will evolve on our own accord and in a way that we will be proud of — we don’t need your help or “education” — thank you very much. Safe travels home.