Monday, April 18, 2016

Anti-Muslim immigration speakers are spreading hate and fear in rural areas

Anti-Muslim immigration speakers are active in rural areas, led by anti-immigration activists such as Ron Branstner, who tells crowds of several hundred enthusiastic supporters that Muslim refugees are coming to the U.S. "to divide and conquer, get rid of our Constitution, get rid of our way of life and implement it with another way of life called," Matt McKinney reports for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Branstner’s radical message, made up of broad anti-Muslim themes mixed with fears about immigration and the cost of helping refugees, is increasingly finding a receptive audience, especially in places where new immigrants are changing the face of the community." (Star Tribune photo by Jeff Wheeler: Ron Branstner speaking in Avon. Minn.)

Branstner isn't alone in spreading his message in Minnesota, McKinney writes. "From Mankato to Mountain Iron, speakers such as Usama Dakdok, A.J. Kern, Brigitte Gabriel, Cynthia Khan, Jeffrey Baumann and Clare Lopez are showing up in churches, restaurants, VFWs and community centers to address crowds and air concerns about immigrants, the Qur’an and what they see as a threat to the U.S. Constitution. Some portray Muslims as practicing a hateful religion, some say Muslims are practically duty-bound to destroy Christians. Others maintain that Muslims are working to someday take control of the U.S."

"To some, such as a Grand Forks, N.D., City Council member who invited Dakdok to speak there last fall, the talks are viewed as an exercise in free speech," McKinney writes. "But the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other groups see the message as dangerous hate speech that riles up audiences with depictions of a Christian America under threat." Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of CAIR, told McKinney, “A lot of these fears are coming from that type of general fear of the ‘other,’ and not real knowledge of Islam."

McKinney writes, "Anti-Muslim sentiment has risen dramatically nationwide in the past year, sparking protests and anti-refugee legislation in Idaho, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas and elsewhere, said Stephen Piggott of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit focused on civil rights." Natalie Ringsmuth, co-founder of a Facebook page called #UniteCloud, which uses social media and conversation to bring people together regardless of their religious beliefs, told McKinney, “The people we are concerned with are people who have never met a Muslim and are nervous, and they don’t know how to separate fact from fiction at this point." (Read more)

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