Another week, another anti-Muslim controversy. To paraphrase the hit song from the movie Hustle and Flow, it’s getting hard out here for a Muslim.
The latest anti-Muslim event is scheduled for this Friday and Saturday and promises to feature protesters, many of them reportedly likely to be armed, outside 20-plus mosques in various states across the country. These anti-Muslim rallies are part of what right-wing organizers have dubbed a “Global Rally for Humanity” to encourage “fellow patriots” to unite in protest against the presence of Muslims in America.
Jon Ritzheimer, the guy who led the armed protest outside a Phoenix mosque in May, is apparently one of the leaders of these events. For those who have luckily forgotten about Ritzheimer, he had gone into hiding after the May protest, but not before reportedly creating a GoFundMe campaign hoping to raise $10 million dollars off his anti-Muslim antics. However, after he failed to raise any money, Ritzheimer channeled his inner Anthony Weiner, claiming that he was victim of hackers, although media reports were very skeptical of this claim.
Anti-Muslim bullshit has truly been off the charts lately. In the last few weeks alone we have seen Ben Carson declare that Islam is not compatible with the U.S. Constitution. Also, we saw Donald Trump refuse to challenge a person at his event who announced, “We have a problem in this country. It’s called Muslims.”
A 14-year-old Muslim student, Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested a few weeks ago for bringing a homemade clock to school. And we have seen, a spike in attacks on mosques, the latest being hateful graffiti sprayed on the walls of a mosque in Louisville, Kentucky.
Despite these incidents, just last Friday Bill Maher declared on his HBO show that the concept of Islamophobia was “silly.” I wonder if Maher also thinks that homophobia is a “silly” concept as well?! I’ll leave that for leaders of the LGBT community to ask him.
So here we are on the verge of more anti-Muslim protests. The Facebook page for this event, however, has featured something very promising. It appears that Muslim Americans and their interfaith allies who are reaching out to the protesters outnumber the Muslim haters. For example, one Muslim American wrote, ‘I hope that you can all learn to look past the fear, hate, and ignorance and see how many Muslims are good people… I believe in charity and helping your fellow man no matter what their religion or skin color is.”
Another person named “Eric Gross” condemned the protests as “#KristallnachtUSA,” referring to the anti-Jewish violence that took place in Germany in 1938. Those who identify as supporting the protests gave responses ranging from posting Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA” to bone-chilling remarks like the “only good #muslim is a mus-slime that no longer consumes oxygen.”
At this point no one can say with certainty if these protests, scheduled in states from Michigan to Tennessee, will materialize. Some of the Facebook pages for the local rallies are no longer active and some have fewer than 50 people replying they will attend.
But sadly the goal of these organizers, to terrorize the Muslim American community, has seen some limited success. After all, how would you feel if your place of worship was going to be surrounded by angry, armed people shouting horrible things about you and your faith? And how do you explain this to your children?
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued a warning to mosques across the country to alert local law enforcement about the planned protests and to inform community members about the threat. In Oklahoma, where several protests are planned, local Muslim community leaders have met with Oklahoma City police department officials, as Adam Soltani, the executive director of CAIR’s chapter there, explained. And media reports note similar responses in other cities targeted by the protesters.
I must say that you really get a sense of the ignorance of the organizers when you realize that one of the mosques targeted, Masjid Muhammad in Washington, D.C., is headed by Talib Shareef, a man who is a retired chief master sergeant who served 30 years in the United States Air Force. I wonder if Shareef ever thought he would be called to defend his own freedom of religion on U.S. soil.
But there has been a silver lining to these planned protests. As CAIR’s Corey Saylor informed me, this event has inspired “many interfaith groups to stand with the Muslim American community to counter the hate.”
For example, the Oklahoma Conference of Churches and The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma are standing shoulder to shoulder with the local Muslim community, as Soltani noted. We are seeing similar developments in places from Spokane, Washington to Toledo, Ohio and more? And Jewish Voices for Peace issued a call on Wednesday to Jewish groups to stand with Muslim Americans against these hate-filled rallies.
And we are also seeing Muslims use these protests as an opportunity to explain to their fellow Americans what Muslims are truly about. For example, in Spring Hill, Florida, the community will not hold a counter protest outside their mosque, as Hassan Shibly, the executive director of CAIR’s Florida chapter, explained. Instead, during the protest, they will be holding a “free check up” fair for anyone in need of medical care at the Crescent Community Clinic, a place the Muslim doctors in the area started to provide free medical care to people of all faiths.
Anyone who is a student of American history understands that we have seen this very type of hate directed in the past against Jews, Catholics, and Mormons. And just like with those respective communities, this time of anti-Muslim bigotry will pass. I just wish it would start passing a little quicker!