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.

  • >>If somebody moves in next door, we generally only require a few things in order for them to earn our favor…<<

    That list pretty much sums it up…

    • Kassie

      I actually find the list a little offensive. Lots of people don’t work for their paycheck, yet can be perfectly acceptable neighbors. At least to me. The retiree, the stay at home mom, the single guy collecting unemployment and the graduate student all can be great neighbors.

      • Yes, of course you’re right. I guess I glossed right over that part although one can say that all of the examples you cite can be defined as “work” in one way or another.

  • Angry Jonny

    Pardon my French, but screw this friggin’ guy. He’s made a few appearances in my hometown of Bagley, touting the same tired fear based rhetoric. Where does he get off coming in and trying to get a rise out of people? What’s in it for him? He’s a total outside agitator.

  • “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.”


  • Fred, Just Fred

    According to the story, Mr. Dakdok sat quietly through the presentation until the prescribed question and answer period. He politely and respectfully challenged the speakers, and sat down when he was asked to.

    I’ve never heard of this fellow before, but all of the news I was able to gather suggests he always conducts himself well, and welcomes challenges from Muslim believers during his presentations.

    Where is the problem?

    BTW, not that I think it is very important, in the interest of full disclosure, it is worth mentioning that Paula Quam is a reporter for the DL-Times, not merely a concerned citizen. Maybe that’s why she felt she was qualified to speak for all Minnesotans, it’s hard to tell with some folks.

    That being said, speaking as an American, not a Minnesotan, I’d be remiss not to remind Ms. Quam the give and take of free speech is a cornerstone of what we call a Democracy; despite what she may have heard on some college campus, or her newsroom.

    • DavidG

      He didn’t sit down when asked until escorted back to his seat by the Police Chief. And as nodleman noted below, the Chief then had to remain seated next to him for the remainder of the session to keep him from disrupting the session.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        That is not what the story says. He took his seat, the chief decided to follow him. There is nothing to indicate he intended to disrupt the session, and he did not.

        • DavidG

          Then perhaps a fuller description of the event will help you:

          “As Dakdok tried to continue grilling the two speakers, he
          was asked forcefully to sit down by several members of the audience, who although they didn’t outright “boo” him, applauded both Haider and Kamel when they responded, clearly making a point about who had been invited to speak, and who had not.

          “You had your turn to speak in Brainerd,” Haider said at one point, referring to a recent event where Dakdok was invited to be the featured speaker at a Brainerd church, for an anti-Islam presentation that had taken place just a couple of days prior to Sunday’s forum. After several minutes of back-and-forth exchanges, Dakdok approached the front of the room, stating that he wanted to show Kamel a passage from his copy of the
          Quran (as Kamel did not have a copy with him), and Kamel said, ‘Sir, please sit down.”

          At that point, Detroit Lakes Police Chief Tim Eggebraaten ‒ who was present at the forum, but not in uniform — quietly approached the Florida minister from the side of the room.
          After escorting a clearly reluctant Dakdok back to his seat, Eggebraaten sat down in the chair right next to him — where he remained for the rest of the presentation.””

          • Fred, Just Fred

            So he was being heckled by members of the audience. The two fellows that were invited to speak, spoke, and then evidently agreed to take questions. “Grilling” suggests hard questions, but questions none the less.

            The Chief quietly asked him to sit down, and he did.

            Sounds to me like maybe Mr. Dakdak was asking questions the speakers didn’t want to, or didn’t have answers for. It happens, but I still don’t see the problem.

    • Kari

      Hi Fred,
      Since you say you’re not a Minnesotan, I’m going to assume you weren’t at the presentation. I was.

      Yes, Mr Dakdok sat quietly through the presentation. However when it came time for the question and answer session he was not even close to respectful. He had to be asked at least twice for his question after rambling on for a while. When he finally got his question out (the moderator was close to moving on to another person by that point) he wouldn’t allow the presenters to answer his question. He was yelling over them and was very disrespectful towards them. It was only after more than10 minutes (yes, I counted) that the chief of police came over so that other people could have their time. He clearly came in with an agenda of his own and intended to take over the meeting for his own purposes.

      I can tell you that as someone went to this gathering to meet my Muslim neighbors (which was very much enjoyable by the way!) I was happy to have him sit down so we could hear from other people who actually had questions they wanted answered.

      • Fred, Just Fred

        Hi Kari,

        I just watched a recording of the meeting. Mr. DakDak did speak at length (according to the video time stamp it was actually 6 minutes, but still).

        When he posed his question, about a sura that directs Muslims to kill infidels, I understand why the lady speaker chose to address him rather than the question, but he did give her a chance to speak.

        There was give and take, but the question was never answered.

        He stood again to show the lady speaker a passage in the Koran she had asked to see, and sat down quietly when the sheriff asked him to. “Taking over the meeting” is hyperbole, in my opinion.

        The only disrespect I heard was from the lady who suggested the speakers should go back to where they came from. Funny, no one mentioned her.

        • Kari

          The woman who asked the question after him came with him and he took over her time which is why I included it in the time (he starts at 46:50 and the chief came over to have him sit down at 59:40) and during that time when he was not talking he was visibly rocking in his seat, shaking his head and muttering.

          Yes of course she’s responding to him because this meeting was about communication – something he wasn’t interested in having. She couldn’t respond to the question because he wasn’t giving her to tell about her experience of the Koran, he wanted to only tell her about his translation of the Koran. The Bible has so many ugly parts of the scriptures and yet I’ve never had to explain why I don’t live them.

          I said *intended* to take over the meeting and I stand by it. The audio was not the best but he was YELLING for a lot of the time and he brought 5-6 people with him who asked scripted questions. If they were not told to get to their questions and especially if Mr Dakdok was allowed to continue to talk the way he had been the meeting would have been purely Islamaphobic sentiment instead of the intent of the meeting which is to Meet Your Muslim Neighbor.

          • Fred, Just Fred

            You sound especially well informed, Kari. Tell me, are you somehow connected with the event organizers?

          • Kari

            This is a town of a little bit less than 9,000 people. Of course I know the event organizers. I also know the local people who came and were skeptical. I was not part of the planning the event, I just showed up that day. I know what happened because I stuck around afterwards for the food. They made delicious samosas.

            And you know what? I am well informed. And that’s awesome. And since you asked that question I’m sure you’re wondering: these are all my words, my thoughts, my experiences.

  • Mike Worcester

    This is not the first time Mr. Dadok’s presence has created tensions in a community: