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Jonathan Marchand: Anti-Islam event doesn't belong in a school

Letter writer says a Willmar school building should not be the location for a local group's anti-Islam event.

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Reader Opinion letter
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A local group of “Christian patriots [sic]” calling themselves “THEE Book Club” are hosting an event at Kennedy Elementary School. This event, entitled “Straight Way Of Grace Ministry Event”, features ministry founder Usama Dakdok.

Dakdok portrays Islam as evil, and Muslims as conduits of evil using half-truths, falsehoods, pseudo-academics and monocular historical examples to support his arguments. Many communities he speaks in are areas where exposure to faiths other than Christianity are limited. He labeled Islam a “…wicked cult…” at a presentation held in Mansfield, Ohio. He has made similar appearances across rural Minnesota.

Local groups are tapped to rent school facilities for his presentations. As public buildings, schools are required to allow the rental of their facilities according to state and federal laws. This is intentional, as schools are not only equipped with audio/visual resources for public talks, but can be interpreted as a nod to the legitimacy of his message. School administration who become aware of the nature of his rhetoric and reconsider their agreement to rent their facilities are then challenged with potential litigation under First Amendment claims, then relenting and allowing the event to proceed, wishing to avoid a lawsuit.

The host is deliberately choosing a location that is home to children of many ethnicities and religions. The attempt to target Islam, Muslims, and Somali community members is not circumstantial or coincidental. It is intentional, provocative, and done in a manner to portray attempts to resist the use of a public building to expound ethnocentricity as an opportunity to be portrayed as a victim.

This has no business in a school. It is not education; it is paranoia and ignorance masquerading as Christianity. Families look at Kennedy Elementary as an example of all faiths and cultures learning and playing together. I fear that the message brought by these groups will encourage and embolden hostility and acrimony towards Muslims, and also undermine the school as a place of welcoming and safety for all children, regardless of culture.

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I strongly encourage THEE Book Club to reschedule their event to a different location.

Jonathan Marchand

Willmar

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