Nativism Watch

Communities across the country #CounterACTHate of virulently anti-Muslim group

Lindsay Schubiner • Jun 10, 2017
Image source: South Asian Americans Leading Together advocacy toolkit.
Image source: South Asian Americans Leading Together advocacy toolkit.

Today, the virulently anti-Muslim group ACT for America has scheduled rallies in 28 cities across the country to spread fear of Muslims. Thankfully communities are coming together to reject bigotry and #CounterACTHate.

All signs point to an embarrassingly weak showing for ACT’s rallies, which would publicly destroy ACT’s claims about their grassroots support. In fact, it looks as though ACT’s turnout will only be boosted by support from overt white supremacists, anti-government militia groups, and even neo-Nazis. Known neo-Nazi Billy Roper organized ACT’s rally in Batesville, Arkansas, though the rally was cancelled after his involvement was publicized by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

ACT has branded these rallies “March Against Sharia,” in an overt attempt at fear mongering. Although the events claim to support religious freedom, ACT’s founder Brigitte Gabriel has also claimed that a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” This outrageous bigotry is not a solitary statement; it cuts to the core of ACT’s deeply anti-Muslim agenda.

The organized anti-Muslim movement has long sought to spread fear of Islam by arguing that Shariah law, or Islamic law, poses a threat to American laws. Anti-Muslim groups have introduced anti-Shariah bills in state legislatures for years, yet David Yerushalmi, the creator of this strategy told the New York Times in 2011 that passing the bills was not the primary goal. “If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose,” Yerushalmi said. “The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this questions, ‘What is Shariah?’”

Today, however, cities across the country are rejecting fear. People are coming together in person and online to say that ACT’s bigotry is not welcome in their communities-or anywhere. They are rejecting racism, fear mongering, and threats to community members. And they are showing up in support of everyone’s right to live their lives without fear of persecution.

One hundred and twenty-nine national and local organizations signed on to letters to the mayors of each of the locations where ACT has scheduled a rally. The letters ask the mayors to publicly denounce anti-Muslim bigotry and support values of diversity and liberty for all.

On the local level, every community has chosen to respond to ACT’s fear mongering differently. Some have decided that ACT’s rallies are so marginal that they do not warrant a response. Some have decided hate must be countered directly, forcefully, and publicly. Still others have asked allies to step up and take the lead.

The responses are creative and unifying. Residents in Lansing, MI, will gather on the steps of the state capitol after ACT’s protest to “wash away hate” with mops and brooms. In San Jose, a coalition of 120 local groups are supporting a “Unity Rally.” In North Carolina, the local community is gathering to “denounce forces of Islamophobia and white nationalism.” A social media Thunderclap during the rallies will help #CounterACTHate and drown out ACT’s bigotry online.

People are already speaking out. Join us online and in the streets to #CounterACTHate.

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