Not-so-nice things have been happening in Minnesota lately for religious minorities. A recent Minnesota Public Radio News report highlighted a spate of disturbingly islamophobic speakers catering to the Religious Right’s rhetoric at events in largely rural areas of the state.  

To start, a church in northern Minnesota hosted former FBI agent John Guandolo to talk about the “threat of Islam” – or as I call it – fear-mongering. Around 120 people attended the Warroad Baptist Church event, where Guandolo spewed anti-refugee rhetoric. 

“Are you prepared?” Guandolo said, according to the report. “Are you prepared for the two or three dozen jihadis in, pick a city in Minnesota, with mortars or shoulder-fired rockets? You don’t think they can get those in the United States?”  

There may be black market for weapons like that, but it does not follow that every Muslim in Bemidji is a threat. If anything it’s guys like this we need to look out for.

Guandolo also told the crowd that “Minneapolis is lost,” asserting that the Twin Cities are overrun with Muslims. Apparently, hyperbole like this is his stock and trade. He uses his former FBI title to enhance his credibility and spew islamophobia around the country to police groups and the public.

In Warroad, Guandolo told the crowd that they’re “essentially getting the county fortified” by accepting refugees from Muslim-majority countries. (Yeah, right. Remember, these people are refugees – in many cases, they’re fleeing violent extremism.)  

No, these girls are not secretly plotting to take over America.  

On the bright side, the report noted that FBI officials in Minneapolis said that Guandolo’s hot takes are not a reflection of the bureau’s counterterrorism experts.

Guandolo was, however, just a warm-up islamophobe compared to another public speaker Minnesota has encountered this month.

“Islam is not a religion," Usama Dakdok, the son of a Baptist preacher, stated at an event. “It’ a savage cult. Therefore, it is unconstitutional for a Muslim to practice Islam in America.”

The word “cult” gets tossed around a lot, but it has no legal meaning. We don’t have levels of religion in this country, where the government decides some beliefs are fine but others can be suppressed. When Dakdok calls Islam a cult while saying it’s unconstitutional to practice it, all he’s doing is displaying his ignorance of the First Amendment.  

Speaking of unconstitutional, Dakdok, an avid Donald Trump supporter, has continuously argued for the mass deportation of all U.S. Muslims in his speeches. Now that is a violation of the Constitution. (Also, where are you going to “deport” Muslims who were born here? Again, such blather shows zero respect for constitutional principles. Yet these people pose as patriots!)  

Dakdok’s fear-mongering tactics are so extreme that police once had to interfere after he disrupted a peaceful “Meet Our Muslim Neighbors" event, also in Minnesota.

“His public speaking is very good,” Tim Eggebraaten, a police chief of Detroit Lakes, Minn., said. “If there was a room full of people that were fearful of Muslims ... I can see how he could get them agitated and worked up into a frenzy pretty quick.”

And therein lies the problem. Too many people do irrationally fear all Muslims, and that fear makes them believe that their peaceful neighbors are not to be trusted.

While reasonable and educated people denounce this fear-mongering and ignorance, we have to keep in mind that rhetoric does matter. Spreading hatred endangers many people, especially in this sensitive political climate.

People like Guandolo and Dakdok can inspire an audience member to become the next hate-crime perpetrator, especially with Minnesota’s growing population of Somali refugees. Of course, they have the right to speak at private venues, but when they do, Americans of goodwill should stand up and speak out against their campaign of bigotry and hate.