In the summer of 2014, a week after we had just moved into our new house in Bemidji, we were approached by someone who was desperately trying to get together Muslims to protest outside Usama Dakdok's rally in Bagley.

Naively, we showed up, kids in tow, where we encountered hatred and Islamophobia like never before. We were taunted, shouted at to the point I burst into tears. All for being a Muslim. I would like to say I was one of the brave few who sat inside the hall, trying to defend my faith. But I wasn't. We just stood quietly outside the Bagley High School, with our placards. After a while the couple who had gone inside to protest and fact-check was escorted outside for "their security." And not wanting to face a whipped up rabid crowd, we left. It was, I know, at this point that our perception of small town rural America shifted. For all the goodness and kindness we had encountered was unfairly stained by the ugliness we encountered in a few short hours. Fear does that. Fear of Muslims and fear of becoming a victim of Islamophobia. We left Bemidji not too long after that, and this incident played no small part in an incredibly hard decision. In a few weeks this election will be over. But what about after? We Muslims are threads in the fabric of America. How can you pull out a few threads without ruining the entire tapestry? Dakdok and his companions will continue visiting northern Minnesota, and will continue their hate speech, because there is a perfectly oiled machine that pays them, that clears the way for them by threatening lawsuits, that benefits from people's fears, that has a vested interest in keeping northern Minnesota, North

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Dakota, Wisconsin voting a certain way.

Alya Jawaid

St Paul