STEWARTVILLE — The Stewartville Sportsman's Club board has canceled the appearance of an anti-Islamic speaker, several days after fliers promoting the speech and warning of Islam's "threat to our way of life" began showing up at Stewartville homes.
"It has become apparent that a rental at the Stewartville Sportsman's Club is being advertised as an information session targeting a specific ethnic group," said a statement released by the club Wednesday afternoon. "When the rental contract was drafted, the Club Board was unaware of what the purpose of the event was for.
"The mission of the Stewartville Sportsman Club is to promote outdoor activities that benefit the outdoors and provide a venue for local youth and adults to learn about and develop a passion to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and responsible manner. In no way is our club a sponsor of political viewpoints and we do not endorse our facility to be used in such a way."
Dave Bunde, the club's president, said the board held a meeting at the club Tuesday night and voted 6-2 to cancel the contract for the speaking event featuring Usama Dakdok.
Bunde said a motivating factor in the board's decision was the negative publicity that the event was generating for the club. The club is known for hosting wedding receptions, company parties, funerals, charity events and even events organized by Muslims, he said.
The general sentiment among the board, even among those who voted to cancel the event, was that Dakdok should be allowed to present his message, "but they didn't think going through the club was the place," Bunde said.
"I'm kind of on the side of free speech, and I'm not biased against Muslims whatsoever. I don't have a problem with them. It's just the ISIS parts that I have an issue with," Bunde said, referring to the Islamic terror group that has inspired attacks in Europe and the U.S.
Dakdok is an Egyptian Coptic Christian who has traveled across Minnesota promoting what his critics say is a negative, distorted view of Islam. He is known for telling listeners that Muslims are in the U.S. to behead Christians and Jews.
Days after word of the speech began circulating, area Muslims began arranging a speaking event of their own at the Rochester Public Library as a counterpoint and rebuttal to Dakdok's appearance. Organizers are calling it, "Say No to Fear: Understanding Islam and Your Muslim Neighbor." The idea was to hold a competing event, rather than staging protests outside the club that would give more prominence to Dakdok's speech.
Regina Mustafa, a Rochester Muslim who is organizing the event, said she supported the club's decision, but didn't discount the possibility that Dakdok might secure another venue around Rochester. In the meantime, she said she was inclined to go ahead with the counter-event at the library, which is set for Oct. 29 from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., the same day Dadok was set to speak.
"I'd like to still have this event," Mustafa said. "There's a great amount of interest in it already."
Dakdok was unavailable for comment.
Mustafa said that her biggest concern about Dakdok was that "he's stoking fear."
"He's fear-mongering and essentially what he's doing is making it difficult for Muslims to try and go about their daily life," Mustafa said. "He tries to take advantage of the current climate against Muslims and Islam in this country."
The fliers that began appearing in Stewartville neighborhoods on Friday were headlined, "Exposing Sharia and the deception of Islam," promising a speech that would reveal the motives and teachings of an Islamic system that is a "threat to our way of life. "Crossroads Ministries" stickers were attached to the fliers.
Bunde said that the board listened to the sponsors who arranged for Dakdok to come to Stewartville before voting to cancel the event.