The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) today called on the Bagley Independent School District #162 to rescind approval of tonight’s speech by Islamophobe Usama Dakdok following harassment of a Muslim woman by a “mob” at his earlier speaking event at the same school on Sunday.
CAIR-MN also called on local and state law enforcement authorities to consider bias charges against the harassers based on that state’s “assaults motivated by bias” statute.
Dakdok, who claims that American Muslims “will kill your children” and that “we are in war with Islam,” was invited to speak at Bagley High School by local Islamophobe Tammy Godwin. On June 22, during the second part of his three-day hate series, audience members said Dakdok incited the audience and endangered a Muslim woman attendee’s safety and security.
The audience members said the Muslim woman, who wears a religious headscarf, was part of a peaceful protest outside the hate event. She, along with others, entered the auditorium after the silent protest finished to listen to the speech. Their “Love Thy Neighbor” signs were lowered and not facing anyone inside. As the Muslim woman was quietly walking down the aisle looking for a seat, Dakdok stopped his presentation and singled her out. He asked her to leave, allegedly yelling, “Sister, I will give you one last chance to leave or I will throw you out myself!”
One attendee described an angry mob of Dakdok supporters who then began harassing the Muslim woman: “People were yelling at the Muslim woman, ‘Get out’ and ‘You weren’t invited.’ Men were getting to their feet and moving towards her to lay hands on her.”
The audience member announced he was calling the police out of concern for the Muslim woman’s safety. Godwin allegedly tried to interfere with the police call by attempting to intimidate the Good Samaritan by telling him, “Don’t you dare [call the police]. This will be on your soul.”
Three officers responded to the call, including the Bagley police chief, a Bagley police officer and a Sheriff’s Deputy. The Muslim woman was allowed to stay and an officer stayed at the event until it ended. One member of the angry mob, seemingly upset with Muslim presence, later approached the officer and asked: “Can I borrow your gun?”
“We support freedom of speech, and that freedom includes the right to peacefully listen to even hate speech without fear of being set upon by an angry and threatening mob,” CAIR-MN Executive Director Lori Saroya. “Bagley Independent School District should cancel tonight’s event due to the clear safety concerns for those Minnesota Muslims and other people of conscience who may choose to exercise their First Amendment rights by attending this hate fest.”
Saroya added that law enforcement authorities should consider charges against the harassers of the Muslim attendee under Minn. Stat. § 609.2231 (2009), which provides penalties for “anyone who assaults another because of the victim’s or another’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability as defined in section 363A.03, age, or national origin.”
CAIR-MN has placed over 7,000 educational flyer inserts on Islam and Muslims in Bagley area newspapers and is working with an interfaith coalition to counter Dakdok’s hate and bigotry. A community dialogue, “From Fear to Understanding,” will be held on Saturday, August 23 at Farm by the Lake in Bagley.
Several attendees expressed concerns about the safety and security of Muslims at tonight’s event, when more Muslims are expected to attend. One attendee said, “The audience doesn’t know where the line is, or that a line even exists. When Mr. Dakdok works a crowd, he does so skillfully, provoking responses and goading reactions. After listening to fear mongering messages the previous night, such as ‘Muslims are destroying the world,’ ‘Muslims are coming to kill your children and grandchildren,’ and ‘We will not be safe until all the Muslims are deported and all the mosques are closed,’ we fear for the safety of Muslims in the audience.”
In a June 17 letter to the school district, CAIR-MN wrote:
“Given the hostile nature of the topics, we are concerned about the safety of Muslims and others in attendance. Although Dakdok has the First Amendment right to free speech, this right is not absolute and has been limited when it is considered to be harassment, intimidating or encouraging violence against a particular group of people.
“Hate speech incites violence against American Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim, and is contrary to the school district’s Harassment and Violence Policy: “The policy of the school district is to maintain a learning and working environment that is free from harassment and violence on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, familial status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, or disability. The school district prohibits any form of harassment or violence on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, familial status, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, or disability.
“The district’s Continuous Non-Discrimination Statement says: “Bagley Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex/gender, sexual orientation, race, color, creed, national origin, religion, disability, receipt of public assistance, marital status, and age in admission to, access to, treatment in, or employment in its programs and activities in compliance with Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The district Authorization of Facility Use Policy and the school district’s Harassment and Violence Policy gives you the authority to deny hate events that pose safety concerns in your school facility. The policy states: “The Bagley School district reserves the right to deny requests for facility use if an administrator has reason to believe that the activity is not suitable for the facility being requested or has reason to believe that a supervisor for the activity is not appropriate and/or acted inconsistently with the policies.”