Salam Dear Readers!
I apologize for the three-day hiatus once again. This time it wasn’t due to illness, it was due to a very busy weekend in preparation for a lot of hate.
I’d like to walk you through this journey starting with some background knowledge and preparations.
This weekend started off with many Muslim communities in America holding their breath: ACT for America was planning to protest their existence – at least, that’s what it felt like.
To begin, what is ACT for America?
ACT for America identifies itself as “the NRA of national security.” Their website states that they work to “protect and preserve American culture and to keep this nation safe.” Sounds a little presumptuous but not too bad, right? If only that were the case.
Unfortunately, ACT for America has seemingly taken it upon itself to define what exactly American culture is and how exactly to keep it safe. Their opinion of what American culture is: they, them, and themselves. Anything or anyone that does not fit their paradigm of normalcy is a threat. Do you see where I am going with this?
ACT for America believes Muslims and Islam are a threat to America.
I didn’t expect many counter protesters, if any, due to ACT for America’s rhetoric. After all, their slogan for the march was to “Give a voice to the voiceless.” Without knowing the history of ACT for America or looking into their actual ideas, they seem like freedom fighters. With 300,000 members and 890 chapters, I was afraid to hope for support.
Thankfully the Constitution limits them from behaving in an extreme or un-American way. Thus all they have been able to do is exercise their freedom of speech and boy have they run with that.
Most recent evidence of this was their nationwide March Against Sharia which they held on Saturday, June 10.
ACT for America stated on their website that the purpose of the March Against Sharia was “In memory and support of victims of FGM, honor killings, and violence toward the LGBT community in the name of religion, culture or foreign law.”
This nationwide march was scheduled to occur in the midst of Ramadan, two days before the one year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting (which we will discuss in another post). Now, it would be speculation as to whether or not this date they chose was without regard to these other factors, or in spite of it. Whatever the case, it exhibited a poor choice. The spreading of hate during a holy month for one group, so close to the memorial day of another group was in bad taste.
Honestly, I would have loved to ignore any news from ACT for America completely but unfortunately, they have a history for aggression and their numbers required attention.
According to writers Jordan Denari and Nathan Lean, in 2015, ACT for America “boasts nearly 300,000 members and 890 chapters across the country.”
The fact that there are that many people who subscribe to hateful rhetoric and choose to be on the side of history that vehemently continues discrimination is scary enough as it is. But to think that this many people were going to go out of their way to “march against Sharia” was terrifying (mostly because I am making the assumption they don’t know what Sharia is). Ignorance may be bliss but arrogance is prone to violence.
Nineteen states were scheduled to have a March Against Sharia. I had seen a few event pages about counter rallies in various states, but we had to prepare for the worst. Being in Texas, which means keeping the open-carry policy in mind. All it takes is one hothead to turn anything peaceful into a tragedy.
So the day before this march took place, our efforts of de-escalation were culminating. Everyone I had spoken to I urged to steer clear of the March – safety first.
Friday night I broke my fast and went to pray, just as millions of Muslims around the world did. I prayed for the safety of everyone, peace of mind, and the ability to move forward.
And then I held my breath, waiting for what June 10 would bring.
The day of the Act for America March Against Sharia started with dread – at least that’s how I felt.
I was afraid of checking social media, I was afraid of checking news sources, I was even afraid to check my text messages for what I may or may not see.
I knew I couldn’t stay in the dark forever though, so I said my Bismillahs and started with the text messages. Nothing.
Then I went to social media. Random memes.
Mainstream news sources. Minimal reporting.
I was confused.
I was astounded that I actually had to do a search for coverage over the March Against Sharia – I thought it would be all over the news.
According to the Facebook event page, 128 people attended the Houston-area March Against Sharia, held in La Porte, with about 60 counter protesters; the two groups were separated by a fence so chanting aside, even the coverage was a bit anticlimactic.
Which is good. Better than good; amazing, really.
Amazing that Texas, a state infamous for its conservative values despite its diverse metropolitan cities, had counter protests for the Marches Against Sharia held in the Houston, Austin, and Dallas areas.
Amazing that in Austin the counter protestors actually outnumbered the Act for America marchers.
Amazing that almost 100 counter protesters showed up in Dallas, a city that has had more than its fair share of Islamophobic concerns.
And Texas was just the tip of the iceberg of support.
There were counter protests all over the nation. People came out to support the Muslim and minority communities, preaching anthems of love, not hate.
As I watched the coverage of the march as well as the counter protests, I was slowly able to exhale that long breath I had been holding. To think that even in these tremulous times there are people out there who are not Muslim, who are willing to put themselves in between bigotry and its potential victims – it gave me so much hope.
To see Muslims coming and out to defend themselves against ignorance and these labels that ACT was trying to enforce upon us – it was inspirational.
I’ve said it before; it seems like people who have held these discriminatory notions recently got a green light to publically harass anyone they consider “other.”
Yet we’ve seen it again and again; their hate is no match for the people of this nation who embody the true spirit of America – a nation of immigrants, refugees and the persecuted.
I was so worried about the safety of everyone who out and about on June 10, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of something positive coming from an event like this – the rejuvenation of unity.
I was so concerned that once again, young Muslim children would be made to feel as if they do not belong, as if their identity as an American was questionable, that I hadn’t even considered how they would feel more a part of this great nation’s fabric with the support of their fellow Americans.
ACT for America, I thank you for your rejuvenation in my American spirit – you know how to bring Muslims together.
The 30 Days of Ramadan blog is written by Sobia Siddiqui, CAIR-Houston’s Operations Coordinator.