Activists protesting against Sharia law and their opponents clashed in rallies across America, in some cases leading to arrests and violent confrontations and showing continued divisiveness about Islam and Islamic law in this country.
March Against Sharia protests occurred in at least two dozen cities including Houston, Seattle, Chicago, and New York City and were organized by ACT For America. ACT calls itself “the only national security grassroots organization in America” and claims to educate Americans about the threats of criminal activity and terrorism. They organized the march claiming that Sharia goes against human rights and democracy while stating that it was done to protect women and children who had been mutilated or worse under Sharia law.
However, while ACT claims to be a national security advocacy group, other organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center call ACT an “Anti-Muslim” group which targets refugees and Muslims in general. The SPLC cites ACT founder Brigitte Gabriel saying that a practicing Muslim who believes in the teachings of the Koran cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States among other, similar remarks.
In many cities, the ACT protestors were outnumbered by counter-protestors who said the protests were fueling racism and anti-Islamic hatred. Both sides chanted their slogans, with the protestors claiming they were standing for human and women’s rights while the counter protestors declared that Muslims were welcome in the community. In some instances, violent confrontations happened between the two sides, leading to arrests.
ACT claims that it does not hate Muslims and disavowed a volunteer organizer in Arkansas who was affiliated with white supremacist groups. But that did not stop some protestors from saying that Islam as a whole and not just radical Islamic terrorism was incompatible with the values of the United States and the Constitution. And to no one’s surprise, the rally approved of President Donald Trump’s calls to impose restrictions on immigrants and refugees.
The Threat of Sharia Law?
As Muslims make up less than 1 percent of the United States population, the idea that Sharia law could become commonplace may seem strange. But citizens across the United States have stated their fear of sharia law and several state legislatures have passed laws sponsored by ACT which explicitly ban state courts from applying international or Sharia law in their decisions. These citizens cite Europe as an example, citing false claims of “no go” areas where Sharia law trumps the nation’s rules.
However, such legislation actually accomplishes little as judges obviously cannot declare that a religious Sharia law supersedes American law or the Constitution. The ACLU charges that such laws are discriminatory against Muslims and prevent judges from interpreting laws from an international perspective even when it may be necessary in cases such as an international marriage or adoption.
It could, in fact, be stated that Sharia law does not exist as Americans think of law, as a coded set of rulings set down by a single authority. Instead, sharia law is more a set of guidelines through which a Muslim is expected to live a virtuous life, comparable to the Ten Commandments. Some of these guidelines consist of commendable actions such as helping the less fortunate and prayer.
In St. Paul, the local Council of American-Islamic Relations chapter invited ACT protestors to tour a mosque and have a dinner to promote an interfaith dialogue. But such efforts have failed to stymie concerns about Sharia laws among people and Muslims have seen a rise in both hostile dialogue and attacks. However, the fact that the counter protestors outnumbered the protestors indicates that many believe that the threat of anti-Muslim hatred and racism remains a bigger threat than Sharia law.
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