Marches against Islamic sharia law are set to take place on Saturday in more than two dozen cities across the US, including New York, Dallas, and Atlanta.
The group organising the rallies, ACT for America (AforA), said Sharia “is incompatible with Western democracy and the freedoms it affords.”
AforA is a lobby group with close ties with US president Donald Trump and boasts over 525,000 members. Former national security adviser Mike Flynn sits on the group’s Board of Advisors.
AforA’s founder, chairman and president is Brigitte Gabriel, a Lebanese immigrant.
She started AforA in 2007, but has said on numerous occasions that she is anti-Sharia, not anti-Muslim.
— Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte) 8 June 2017
“Not all Muslims are bad,” she told a Fox News anchor in an interview this week. But the country needs to have “a difficult conversation,” she said. “What does Islam as a political ideology have to do with what the terrorists are doing right now?”
The organisation has played a key role in helping pass state-level bills targeting refugees and limiting the scope of Islamic law.
More than 13 states have introduced bills banning Sharia law as a result of AforA’s campaigning.
AforA refers to itself as “the NRA of national security,” protecting “America from terrorism.”
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The upcoming march is about “human rights” and protecting women and children from Sharia, the group said in a statement.
Is ACT for America Islamophobic?
Those critical of the protests against Islamic law insist that AforA is part of a growing intolerance towards minority communities in the US.
“ACT demonizes all Muslims as terrorists who want to subvert the political system in this country,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labelled ACT as an “extremist group.”
“They disseminate lies and fallacies about Muslims to spread fear about the religion. These marches are concerning because of what they will mean to the Muslim community. When an organisation propagandises an entire community, it tends to embolden some people to commit hate crimes.” she added.
In April 2017, the group distanced itself from Roy White, an Air Force veteran who had been president of AforA’s San Antonio, Texas branch after he allegedly planned to hold workshops on how to “shut down” mosques.
The mayor of Portland Ted Wheeler, urged ACT not to follow through with the rally in Oregan’s largest city after a seperate protest became violent last weekend.
Police made 14 arrests and confiscated weapons like brass knuckles and knives from rival protesters clashing at a free-speech and pro-Trump rally in Portland on 4 June.
Two men were fatally stabbed as they tried to protect two women — one of whom was wearing a headscarf — from an anti-Muslim tirade.
In the days leading up to the June 2017 “March Against Sharia”, AforA cancelled a rally in Arkansas, after it emerged that its organiser Billy Roper was a prominent white supremacist.
“We stand firmly opposed to any actions by individuals or organizations that seek to attack or intimidate based on race, religion, or sexual orientation,” AforA said in a statement on Thursday.
“Our June 10th nationwide marches are in support of basic human rights for all – and against the horrific treatment of women, children, and members of the LGBTQ community that is sanctioned by Sharia law,” it added.
The nationwide march is one of the largest coordinated efforts by AforA in a decade.