Activists are planning to counter the rallies with events designed to promote religious tolerance and interfaith dialogue.
AUSTIN, Texas — Calling itself a “Global Rally for Humanity,” a Facebook-based group is calling for demonstrations outside over a dozen mosques or centers of Muslim learning nationwide. Some may feature armed “open carry” activists.
The protests are the latest in a series of anti-Muslim actions that have occurred outside mosques in recent months, part of what some advocates for religious freedom cite as a growing wave of Islamophobic speech and violence in America. In response, some interfaith groups are planning counter protests.
The Center for New Community’s website Imagine 2050, a website covering race, immigration, and American identity, published a map documenting at least 20 planned anti-Islam protests scheduled to take place on Oct. 9 or 10. The events are planned outside mosques, Islamic community centers and some government offices.
The Center for New Community’s Kalia Abiade noted:
“While some organizers have urged participants to leave their weapons at home, others are urging protesters to exercise ‘ALL of your Constitutional Rights.’
The Michigan event page describes the Dearborn event as an ‘OPEN CARRY anti-mosque pro-AMERICA rally on 10/10!!’”
Abiade describes the various groups organizing the protests as “loosely connected,” but they have ties to other recent anti-Islam protests and events, including the “Freedom of Speech Rally,” which the article describes as an “armed biker rally” that occurred in May outside a Phoenix mosque.
Both that rally and an upcoming October event in Phoenix were organized by Jon Ritzheimer, who called for global actions opposing the religious freedom of Muslims.
Many organizers or others involved with the national protests tie their event to an upcoming Million Man March anniversary rally organized by the Nation of Islam, their concerns over the Iran Deal, or objection to the idea of the U.S. accepting Muslim refugees from the Syrian civil war or other Middle Eastern countries, but none of the mosques or community centers they’re targeting are involved in any of those events.
Instead, these events seem to be part of a growing wave of Islamophobia in the United States. The FBI has warned that “militia extremists” are increasingly including mosques and Muslim community centers as potential targets. In August, Imraan Siddiqi, chairman of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, told the politics podcast Unauthorized Disclosure that mosques are facing a growing number of violent threats.
“But American Muslim communities are not being left to face these protestors alone,” reported Carol Kuruvilla, religion associate editor at The Huffington Post. She noted that an increasing number of activists and interfaith groups are offering their support to mosques facing protests and threats by “offering to organize counter protests, build peace circles and engage in long-term community building.”
One positive outcome of the threats is that events like the Phoenix rally “actually strengthened interfaith networks.”
With some Muslim groups asking that direct confrontation be avoided, these interfaith groups are carefully considering the best course of action to respond to the October events. Catherine Orsborn, director of the Shoulder to Shoulder Interfaith campaign, told The Huffington Post:
“Muslim communities may not want to exacerbate the situation by drawing attention to [the rallies] and feeding the hype. We’re really examining what it looks like to be a good interfaith ally in this situation.”
Watch “CAIR-Houston Rep Seeks Police Protection for Mosques Against Armed Anti-Islam Rallies” from ABC 13: