Somali group denounces racist graffiti

by Jennifer Johnson

A leader of a Grand Forks Somali organization responded Tuesday to racist graffiti found on a commercial building recently.

Faisal Abdi, in a message to the Herald, said the graffiti was a “desperate attempt to spread hatred, suspicion and division among the peacefully coexisting communities in the Greater Grand Forks (area).”

Abdi is a member of the Somali Community of Grand Forks, a nonprofit organization established in January, according to its Facebook page. The group aims to provide basic social, educational and cultural services to Somalis in the Grand Forks area.

The words Somalia and a racist slur were found spray-painted on the north side of a strip mall at 1020 S. Washington St.. After news of the defaced building spread Monday on Facebook, the building owner was notified and he painted over the words later that day.

“Although the graffiti specifically targeted the Somali community, the Muslim communities in Grand Forks expected the spike of racist reactions after the anti-Islamic speech by Usama Dakdok that took place at the Empire center last week,” he said. “That speaker had one message to share with his vulnerable audience: Anti-Islam — an intolerable hatred and fear toward the religion of Islam and Muslims.”

Dakdok, a Christian public speaker, gave a seminar titled “Revealing the Jihad and Terrorism of Islam” March 17 before a crowd of nearly 200 at the Empire Arts Center. Phil Ehlke, general manager of the radio station Q-FM, which organized the Dakdok event, defended the speaker and said the seminar was informative. None of the people who attended the event felt it was hate speech, he said.

Abdi wrote about joining the silent protest of more than 150 people before Dakdok’s event.

“The sick individual who sprayed the graffiti and Usama failed,” he said. “We consider such bigoted individuals isolated bad apples and not representative of the great people of Grand Forks. In fact, the Muslim community feels safe and at home. We love this beautiful city and continue to strive for the betterment of our inclusive and welcoming community.”

Abdi said he intends on talking to local organizations like the Global Friends Coalition and others to organize a potential educational event.