An anti-Muslim activist group held marches in about two dozen cities across the country on Saturday to protest Islamic law. Although Act for America said the marches were specifically in opposition to Shariah law, the self-described grassroots organization with a focus on national security has been labeled as an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Although the organization insists it doesn’t oppose discrimination, it is clear that its protests gather together people who are opposed to Islam in principle. “I don’t believe Islam can peacefully coexist with the Constitution,” said a protester in Seattle. “I’m not going to tell them they can come here and take away my Second Amendment right. We need unity in this country under no ideology and no banner except the Constitution of the United States of America.”
When the group’s supporters took to the streets on Saturday, they found they were hugely outnumbered by counterprotesters in several cities. In New York, for example, the “anti-Shariah” rally involved about three dozen people, while counterprotesters numbered in the hundreds. “Fascists out of NYC,” read a banner carried by the counterprotesters. The anti-Muslim demonstrators derided the counterprotesters as out-of-touch elites. If you feel unsafe “walking around in a hijab, try being a conservative on a college campus,” Pax Hart, who organized the New York march, said. “We’re here protecting their rights, and they’re trying to shut us down! It’s insane!” Counterprotesters banged on pots and made other noise to try to drown out the anti-Shariah rally. “The theme of today is drowning out racism,” said counterprotester Tony Murphy. “The more racists get a platform, the more people get attacked.”
In Seattle, the counterprotest dubbed “Seattle Stands With Our Muslim Neighbors” was far larger than the anti-Shariah demonstration.
In St. Paul, Minnesota, a few people were detained when fights broke out at the Capitol, where dueling rallies were held. About 100 people got together inside the Capitol rotunda to hear to speeches about how Islamic law is a threat to democracy. There were three times as many counterprotesters outside.
In Chicago, about 30 people demonstrated against Shariah while around twice as many people participated in a counterprotest held across the street.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, there was tension on the steps of the State Capitol, where a similar number of protesters and counterprotesters faced off. More than a dozen members of the anti-government Oath Keepers were present, mostly carrying handguns, to provide security for the event.
Act for America has been obsessed with Shariah law and began a campaign against it in 2008. Its highly effective grassroots campaign has resulted in more than 13 states introducing bills to ban Shariah law even though there would be clear constitutional constraints to somehow making religious law supersede U.S. law. Meanwhile, hate cries against Muslims have been on the rise. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said in May that the number of anti-Muslim incidents surged 57 percent last year compared with 2015. This isn’t limited to the United States. Anti-Muslim hate crimes soared in London after the terrorist attack earlier this month.