A Pennington County GOP spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, but South Dakota Republican Party Chair Dan Lederman said the state party supports the Pennington County chapter’s sponsorship of the event.
“Unlike the Democrats who demand that the members of their party fall into lockstep, the Republican Party is a big tent party that allows our members to have different views,” Lederman told [that Sioux Falls paper]. “Many of our members believe that if we are able to concur or combat Islamic radicalism, we must understand the threat and that is exactly what we have helped with in Rapid City” [Dana Ferguson, “Muslim Group Asks GOP to Drop Ties to Controversial Speaker,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.06.15].
At past speaking engagements, Guandolo has claimed that every major Islamic center and organization in the U.S. is part of a massive terrorist network, and that growth in Muslim communities is evidence of preparation for a jihad on U.S. soil.
“When they build a mosque they’re claiming territory, now all they have to do is occupy it,” Guandolo said at a conference in Colorado last August. “So they’re calling Muslims to occupy the land.”
…and one prominent Muslim South Dakotan’s response:
The idea that all major Muslim organizations in the U.S. are part of an extremist conspiracy to destroy America is an example of “getting a little carried away,” said local developer Hani Shafai.
Shafai, who was born in Palestine and is a practicing Muslim, has lived in Rapid City for about 35 years.
“I love the people, I love the area,” Shafai said. “This is home. I’ll defend it against anybody, I don’t care if they’re Muslim, Jewish or Christians.”
“Every religion and every society has its bad apples and its radicals,” he added. “But there are a lot of good people in every society. There might be some radicals, but most Muslims, if not the majority of them, are just hardworking people who believe in God and believe in the books that God has sent” [Anderson, 2017.06.15].
It’s bad enough that Republican elected officials like Al Novstrup, Shantel Krebs and Marty Jackley have graced these anti-Muslim events with their presence. Now Lederman is shielding his party’s sponsorship of anti-Muslim rhetoric with a false reading of tolerance. Tolerance does not mean total moral relativism in which anything goes. We can tolerate difference—different religions, different races, different political views, different lifestyles—while rejecting harmful lies and bigotry, the way South Dakota Democrats do:
While reasonable people can disagree about immigration and refugee policy, conspiracy theories and bigotry targeting a minority population should have no place in our political debates. Republicans should denounce this type of hateful rhetoric, not embrace it. Since Mr. Lederman refused to take the lead in denouncing hate, I call Republican elected officials and candidates like John Thune, Mike Rounds, Kristi Noem, Marty Jackley, Shantel Krebs, and Dusty Johnson to show some important leadership and make it clear that this kind of hate does not belong in their party or our state [Ann Tornberg, South Dakota Democratic Party chair, press release, 2017.06.15].
KOTA Territory News was denied access into the event, but given a statement by ACT for America. It read in part:
“The Rapid City chapter of ACT for America has decided to keep the “Understanding the Threat” event private due to previous mis-characterization and inaccurate reporting by members of the media… Learning about Islamic extremism is relevant in this age of terrorism, and the media has used a specific and intentional agenda to depict our attendees as bigots.”
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it [Donald Trump, speech to leaders of 50+ Muslim countries, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as transcribed by CNN, 2017.05.21].
Trump also sat with his hands clasped in his lap during a Muslim invocation and offered no rebuttal to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who introduced Trump’s address to the summit by saying (through a translator) that terrorists (fueled largely by Iranian/Khomeinist extremists) have tried to “exploit Islam as a cover for political purposes”:
Islam and will always be the religion of mercy, tolerance, and coexistence as confirmed by brilliant precedents. In its prosperous times, Islam provided the best examples of coexistence and harmony among followers of religions and cultures. However, we see today that some presumed Muslims seek to present a distorted picture of religion, a picture that seeks to conflate this rich religion with violence. We say to our Muslim brothers and sisters, our sons and daughters everywhere, that one of the most important goals of Islamic sharia is protecting life, and there is no honor in committing murder. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance that urges its followers to develop Earth and forbids them from corrupting it. It considers killing an innocent soul tantamount to killing all of humanity. Our way to achieve the goals of our religion and win everlasting life in heaven is to promote the tolerant values of Islam which are based on peace, moderation, and refraining from destroying and corrupting Earth [King Salman, address to Muslim summit, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2017.05.21].
There you go, straight from the President and his new pal the King: there is no war of civilizations. Islam is a religion of peace. And we trust and love our Muslim brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia so much that the President is going to make sure that they “get a good deal from our great American defense companies.”
With the forum overseen by Trinity Episcopal Church Rev. Portia Corbin and First Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) Rev. Carl Kline and attended by about two dozen members of the public, Fathi Halaweish, a representative from the Brookings Islamic Center and a 20-year chemistry and biochemistry instructor at South Dakota State University who originates from Egypt, led a 75-minute discussion about his faith and sought to dispel negative perceptions surrounding it.
…Kline also maintained that Christian-majority societies could seek better understanding with the Islamic faith by extending invitations to Muslims within their communities and allow them to share their experiences and beliefs.
Interviewer: You travel to countries where the Islamic State has a hold on many areas. Rumor has it that ISIS is getting funded by Western states like the US. What do you have to say about that?
Dogan: Yes, that is the truth. When it comes down to it, it is all about the oil. While travelling, I met several persons all saying that they had witnessed the US helping the Islamic State in different ways. One thing stood out because there have been so many people who had remarked on it: When the US dropped aid and weapons over the Iraqi city of Mosul that had been in the hands on ISIS since 2014. They simply said that they had made a mistake. The people I have spoken to, soldiers fighting ISIS in that area, told me that they had witnesses similar things around 8 times.
That the minorities that get attacked like they do in Iraq, are of course partly because of religions differences. But mostly it is because there are substantial amounts of oil in the areas where they live. Therefore it is very important for the US to divide as much as possible, making the areas unstable in order for them to come in and “rescue” the situation. This we saw in Libya, and we see it all over again in Syria. The US would like to tell us that they only want the “bad Bashar al-Assad” out, but it is not about that. Everything is about who controls the oil.
I spoke to a Turkish truck driver from north Iraq who said that he and four other drivers drove trucks full of weapons from Europe to the Islamists in Mosul. The weapons he told me was from Germany, but whether the German government has any knowledge of that I don’t know. But it is worrying when you hear such things over and over again [Sanna Hill, “Aid Worker Hatune Dogan: ‘ISIS Is Getting Help from the West,” Free West Media, 2017.01.03].
The mission of (Abu Bakr) Baghdadi, of ISIS, is to convert the world completely to the Islamic religion and bring them to Dar Al Salaam, as they call it. And Islam is not peace, please. Whoever says ISIS has no connection to Islam or something like this is, he’s a liar. ISIS is Islam; Islam is ISIS [Sister Hatune Dogan, in Erick Stakelback, “Nun: ‘Islam Is ISIS. Whoever Says Otherwise Is a Liar’,” Christian Broadcasting Network, 2016.01.02].
Jensen and Dogan display the kind of fear, exaggeration, and willful falsehood motivating many of our Republican legislators.
“Words hurt. They marginalize. They make us the other,” said Taneeza Islam, a Sioux Falls lawyer and community activist. “We are beautiful Americans, and we will no longer stand by to allow for inflammatory rhetoric by our state leaders.”
Members of other faiths appeared, as well, including Father Larry Ort of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brookings. “Radical Islamic terrorism” disparages all Muslims, Ort said.
Hult reports that “several lawmakers were on hand,” but alas, the one who gets the ink is Senate Majority Leader R. Blake Curd, who apparently came to poop on the party (the Muslims’ gathering, not his political party):
Senator Blake Curd said, “What we can see is a meaningful look at the immigration system. The reforms that are necessary. Making sure that we understand who comes to the United States. That they are coming here to become a part of that intricate fabric that is the United States to make it a stronger community and a stronger country. Those are the people that we want here.”
Senator Curd told us, he believes the intention of the resolution is not to discriminate towards any religion [Kole Fehling, “Community Comes Together for Muslims,” KDLT, 2017.03.04].
It takes some pretty strong partisan blinders—or maybe just the smug majoritarianism of a rich white male Christian in South Dakota whose never really experienced an attack on his faith by his community leaders—to not see the ill will toward Islam embodied in the original text of SCR 15 and the current language that brackets one specific religion with negative terms
The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a U.S. government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States [Julia Edwards Ainsley, Dustin Volz, and Kristina Cooke, “Trump to Focus Counter-Terrorism Program Solely on Islam—Sources,” Reuters, 2017.02.02].
The President apparently has such a low opinion of the strength and skill of the United States that he thinks we cannot deal with multiple proven security threats at once.
If I took Ken Santema’s advice, I wouldn’t comment on Bill Fuhrman’s response to the Aberdeen American News‘s question to its Reader Panel on whether he is satisfied with the results of the Presidential election:
Satisfied! Trump could exchange the existing Islam worshippers in and around the White House with Christians, reinstate the National Day of Prayer, disallow the Quran in schools, totally eliminate Sharia law from our land and more closely examine incoming refugees [Bill Fuhrman, in Reader Panel, “Mixed Feelings on Election Results,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.11.15, p. 6A].
But no, I have be one of those bad old “social justice warriors” and say that Bill Fuhrman epitomizes the Trumpist ignorance and bigotry that puts our Constitution and nation in peril for the next four years. In brief:
Banning Qurans from school is as Constitutional as banning Bibles from school. I welcome the study of both in public schools, though not at the expense of studying math, language, science, and other required classes, and not in any way that encourages belief in either religion.
My xenophobe neighbors are bringing Usama Dakdok to town in a couple weeks to preach his fearful, angry nonsense about all Muslims being terrorists. He has subjected Brainerd and Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, to his hyperventilations over the past couple weeks, and some Minnesotans have shown us how we ought to respond to such vileness.
Board President Dace Julifs said Friday that Usama Dakdok’s presentation didn’t reflect any of the congregation’s views and Wooden did not adequately inform the leadership ahead of time about what would take place Thursday. The board members authorized Julifs to ask for Wooden’s resignation.
Two Muslim Americans, Dr. Fauzia Haider and Concordia College professor Ahmed Kamel, were guest presenters at the event.
During a question-and-answer session that followed, Dakdok stood and thanked them for coming before stating they are not theologians, adding, “which obviously, to me, means you do not know what you are 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?”
Dr. Haider, a Fargo physician, put this crimp in Dakdok’s Muslims-hate-America narrative:
“When my mom first came to America, she made a statement that was very interesting,” Haider said. “She said, ‘Americans are really good Muslims’… because they do what Muslims are supposed to do: They’re honest in their dealings, they don’t cheat, they don’t lie, they take care of their neighbors, there’s accountability, there’s justice — and Islam is all about having a just society. That’s what her perception was of America, and she’s a practicing Muslim” [Gerdes, 2016.10.05].
Detroit Lakes resident Paula Quam offered this extended response to Dakdok’s hate speech in this open letter after the event:
At the meeting, you tried to “educate” guest speaker Fauzia Haider on her own faith, as if you had the right to clarify what her religion should mean to her. We’re sure you would have been open to her breaking down the actual meaning of your own religious beliefs for you, but she didn’t do that. It’s almost like she thought you had the right as an American to believe in your God the way you wanted to. Huh strange. It’s weird when people break out their true American values like that [Paula Quam, “An Open Letter to the Fearmonger Who Crashed Our DL Event,” DL-Online, 2016.10.05].
Some fearful, angry people will attend Dakdok’s next Three-Hours Hates (two of them, October 18 and October 20) in Aberdeen. We can only hope their fear and anger will spread no further.
Toward the end of his disjointed jumble of rageful assertions Thursday, Branstner offered a statement that he called his “big daddy”:
Hillary Clinton in 2011—you guys are going to get a lick out of this—she signed with the United Nations Resolution 16/18—bet you never heard of that before, did you? She signed 16.18 which means if she gets into office, she signed it at the United Nations level, the international level, that if anybody says anything against Islam, you will be thrown in jail. She signed it at the international level. Resolution 16/18 [Ron Branstner, anti-immigrant/anti-Islam presentation, Aberdeen, South Dakota, 2016.08.11].
But UN Resolution 16/18 doesn’t call for putting critics of any religion in jail. 16/18 “recognizes that the open public debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue at the local national and international levels can be among the best protections against religious intolerance….” The only suggestion of jail time comes in 16/18’s support for “adopting measure to criminalize incitement to violence based on religion or belief.”
The United States strongly supports today’s resolution, which rejects the broad prohibitions on speech called for in the former “defamation of religions” resolution, and supports approaches that do not limit freedom of expression or infringe on the freedom of religion [Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, statement, 2011.03.24].
Now there is certainly an argument that some Muslim countries interpret 16/18 to still allow blasphemy laws. Some Muslims take the position that because calling their prophet names or displaying a cartoon of him may incite faithful Muslims to violence, the speaker or drawer deserves to be punished. The United States takes the position that, no, if Charlie Hebdomocks Mohammed with a drawing and Muslims start shooting, the crime is on the killers, not Charlie Hebdo. (Radical Islamic theocrats sound like Pat Powers, who says I was inciting a riot by responding to Branstner’s fantastic lies with local facts.)
UN Resolution 16/18 did not remove blasphemy laws from the books in certain Muslim countries. But 16/18 did not signal American support for blasphemy laws, and it does not empower President Obama or President Clinton to put Ron Branstner in jail for talking smack about Islam or spreading any of his lies.