- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - Scores of protesters stood in the rain outside a St. Cloud church to denounce a speech by a critic of Islam.

The St. Cloud Times reported (http://bit.ly/1TOZiSZ)that Usama Dakdok, founder of the Florida-based Straight Way of Grace Ministry, has been on a speaking tour of central Minnesota. He stopped at Granite City Baptist Church on Friday night, telling a packed house that Islam is a hateful force bent on world domination.

He questioned why Americans, particularly Minnesotans, want to bring more Muslims to the United States. Minnesota’s Somali community is the largest in the United States. Somalis are primarily Muslim.

Dakdok also said he wants to get rid of Islam, not Muslims. Journalists incorrectly present him as Islamophobic, he said.

“Muslims are using them to destroy you, and you the American people still buy the newspaper,” he said of journalists. “Shame on you.”

About 100 protesters gathered outside the church in the rain, holding signs with messages like “I Stand With My Muslim Neighbors” and listening to speakers talk about why it was important to take a stand.

Ayan Omar, an educator at Technical High School who has lived in St. Cloud since 2005, said that as a Somali woman and a Muslim it was important for her to protest.

“America is made out of different religions, different colors, different backgrounds,” she said. “I want my daughter to be accepted into wherever community she attends.”

A group of Somali community members released a statement Thursday saying the best way to deal with Dakdok was not to protest.

“Although we understand this individual’s right to free speech, we strongly disagree with his attempt to cause disharmony and to sow division in our community,” the statement said.

Jama Alimad, an elder member of St. Cloud’s Somali community, said Dakdok didn’t deserve any response at all.

“We don’t care about whatever he says,” Alimad said.

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