This Friday and Saturday, a group of loosely connected protesters plan to host anti-Muslim demonstrations in front of approximately 20 mosques, community centers and government offices under the banner of a "Global Rally for Humanity."
A Facebook page explains the reasoning behind the planned protests, arguing that "[h]umanity is attacked daily by radical Islam," and calling for protests in "every country at every Mosque." The page encourages "patriots" around the country to set up events in their own towns. And while some organizers have urged participants to leave their weapons at home, others are encouraging protesters to exercise "ALL of your Constitutional Rights."
That means that this weekend, at about 20 sites around the country, Muslim American men, women and children going to mosques will be forced to walk by signs maligning their faith and accusing them of being un-American and violent, will be forced to listen to men and women shouting at them urging them to "go home" or worse, and some will even be confronted by protesters carrying weapons, meant to intimidate and frighten. All under the guise of a "Global Rally for Humanity." The irony might be laughable, if the anti-Muslim hate was not so real.
Although it might be tempting to dismiss these protesters as part of a racist, fringe movement, not to be taken seriously, that would be a mistake. The organized anti-Muslim movement in this country is well-financed, well-organized and pervasive in American politics. And while the men and women participating in these ugly rallies targeting houses of worship may seem extreme, they are actually the physical manifestation of an ugly and deliberate rhetoric against American Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim, that has long been a part of the mainstream American public discourse.
Bigotry and hatred against American Muslims is not an imagined problem, and it's not one that we can afford to ignore. Every day, American Muslims are confronted with bigotry while driving to work and school, applying for jobs, practicing their faith, and simply living their lives.
But these acts of bigotry are not limited just to interpersonal transgressions, they play out on a national stage, in public policy and in pop culture. From a Republican presidential candidate proclaiming that a Muslim American should not be president, to the erasing of American Muslim achievements from Tennessee schoolbooks, to a 14 year-old boy in Texas being arrested for bringing a clock to school, American Muslims have been facing an onslaught of attacks from all sides.
These personal and public acts of bigotry and racism are having an effect. Recent polling in North Carolina revealed that 72% of the state's residents do not believe a Muslim American should be president, and 40% believe Islam should be illegal in the United States. According to Gallup, about one-half of nationally representative samples of Mormons, Protestants, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews in the United States agree that, in general, most Americans are prejudiced toward Muslim Americans.
Until we confront the anti-Muslim prejudice that has pervaded our national conversations and our daily lives, we cannot pretend that these rallies are anything but the natural outcome of our blasé attitude toward bigotry and discrimination. We must use these rallies not only as an opportunity to organize against discrimination, but as a reminder that we cannot flag in our work to counter those who spread hate based on religion, race, or any other perceived difference.
On his Facebook event page, John Ritzheimer, the organizer of the Phoenix rally, makes the call for "all AMERICANS who still LOVE LIBERTY and cling to the CONSTITUTION!!" to come and show support. I guess I'm doing the same.