In the U.S., right-wing contempt for Muslims is nothing new. Unfortunately, that contempt has soured into outright hatred among some right-wing Americans, culminating in a series of anti-Islam protests this weekend. Fortunately, the protest effort fell on its face when people of conscience stood up for their Muslim neighbors, or when anti-Islam protesters failed to show up at all.
An entity called Global Rally for Humanity called for the nationwide anti-Islam protests on October 10th, using the Twitter hashtag #tentenfifteen to drum up support. The rallies coincided with a 20th anniversary rally commemorating the Million Man March in Washington D.C., organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
SPLC Hatewatch claims that the protests are the brainchild of Jon Ritzheimer, who organized an armed anti-Islam protest in Phoenix, Arizona in May. This summer, Ritzheimer told the Phoenix New Times that he was planning a global anti-Islam protest, which may have inspired the organizers of the Global Rally for Humanity. Media outlets also claim that the Oath Keepers are one of the groups that organized the events. However, I could find no mention of the Global Rally for Humanity at the Oath Keepers website.
The logo of on the main Global Rally for Humanity's Facebook page shows two muscular men's arms locked in an arm-wrestling pose, with Asia in the background, presumably symbolizing the struggle between Islam and its detractors around the world.
Organizers seemed to make no distinction between law-abiding Muslims and radical extremists, decrying radical Islam while calling for protests at peaceful mosques. "Humanity is attacked daily by radical Islam," the group argues on its Facebook page. The language of the Global Rally for Humanity is urgent and bombastic, demonizing Islam as an invading force that threatens America. A Facebook page calling for a rally in Dearborn, Michigan laments the supposed "invasion of Muslim colonization" in America, calling on supporters to "save our Republic".
A clear racial undercurrent ran through the rhetoric of other Global Rally websites. The Facebook page for the event's Atlanta iteration warned that violence from Black Lives Matter activists and Louis Farrakhan supporters could erupt. In a paranoid rant fit for a conspiracy theorist, the author accused Farrakhan of seeking a pretext for martial law so that his "brother Muslim" President Obama could rule as a dictator (!?).
"October 10th, radical Imam Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam will be in DC preaching their message of hatred against white people, against law enforcement, and against America in general. He has called for an unruly mob of 10,000 BLM terrorists to pull down the National Flag from the Mall in DC, an act of treason and war. Farrakhan hopes to destabilize the USA in order to provide the pretext for martial law in order to keep a "brother muslim" in the White House, as a true dictator. According to their pages they will also be looking to start trouble around the country on 10/10, in addition to DC. We've already got our thousands going to DC to defend Old Glory, now we've got to throw local resistance together on the Homefront. GEORGIA is OPEN CARRY. And we will be peacefully assembled in force in front of the Al-Farooq Masjid of Atlanta on 10/10. We intend to fully support local law enforcement across the country, and if need be, we've got their six. We will not allow the hateful rhetoric of ISLAMIC agitators like FARRAKHAN to destroy the country we all love and swore on oath to defend. Come prepared to convoy up, as we must be mobile since it may become necessary for our rally to become a patrol. We'll keep y'all updated here on this event post as the situation evolves."The Facebook page for the Global Rally's Florence, Kentucky iteration also demonized Farrakhan and Islam while celebrating "red-blooded American Patriots".
"On October 10th Farrakhan will be in DC preaching Nation of Islam's message of hatred for America, law enforcement, and random white people. He's instructed his minions to tear down our National Flag on the Mall, but we've got thousands of red-blooded American Patriots headed up there to defend it ... We're all rallying up in OPEN CARRY STATES in support of local law enforcement and against anti-American TERRORISM both foreign and domestic. In Northern Kentucky our counterprotest rally point is against ISLAMIC CENTER OF NORTHERN KENTUCKY in FLORENCE!! Please SHARE this event in groups and INVITE fellow Patriots, Veterans, Bikers, Rednecks and Good Ol Boys!!"These Facebook commentators failed to realize that Louis Farrakhan does not speak for all Muslims, that the American Muslim community is not monolithic, and that most Muslims are not extremists. Their ignorance about U.S. Muslims was breathtaking.
Understandably, some American Muslim communities were alarmed. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issued a statement last week urging mosques to be prepared for anti-Islam protests.
"The anti-Islam rallies come at a time of increased hate-motivated crimes and bias incidents nationwide targeting persons and property associated, or perceived to be associated, with Islam and the American Muslim community.Other people of conscience called for solidarity with their Muslim neighbors. Countless people condemned the rallies on Twitter by using the hashtag #HateUnchecked. The Jewish Voice for Peace and the Network Against Islamophobia issued an October 7th statement condemning xenophobia and white supremacist hate. "As hate crimes and bias incidents are on the rise against Muslim institutions and against individuals assumed to be Muslim, we at JVP continue to stand with the Muslim community—and with all communities that are being targeted by xenophobia and white supremacy," the statement reads. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, urged UCC leaders to support their beleaguered Muslim neighbors in an October 9th statement. (Hat tip to the Christian Science Monitor.)
Many of these planned rallies may not take place, or they may consist of only a handful of people shouting slurs at worshipers. But given the recent endorsement of Islamophobia by national public figures, it would only be prudent for mosque and community leaders to prepare for any eventuality."
"I am calling on the leaders of the United Church of Christ to learn what they can about these protests planned for this weekend. I am calling on them to organize a planned response to any demonstrations in their community targeted at our Muslim brothers and sisters and their places of worship. I am calling on them to reach out to and contact the leaders of those worshiping communities and let them know that we stand in solidarity and support of them. Even if there is no organized protest in your community, please reach out to those leaders and let them know of your love and support. This will have a deep impact on all Muslims – whether they are specifically targeted for a protest or not.Fortunately, rallies in several U.S. cities fizzled. A protest in front of the Muslim Center of Racine in Wisconsin was canceled for unknown reasons, according to the Racine County Eye. In Huntsville, Alabama, no one arrived at a planned protest outside the Huntsville Islamic Center, according to WHNT 19. No anti-Islam protesters showed up for the Global Rally in Bremerton, Washington, but approximately 40 people came together to show solidarity with the Muslim community, according to the Seattle Times. Raw Story reports that only one woman showed up for a protest in front of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin, Ohio -- and that she was warmly invited into the mosque by Muslims.
Finally, I want to say as clearly as I can, and in no uncertain terms, that the United Church of Christ stands in full solidarity with people of the Muslim faith. Their contribution to religion, to peace, to humanity, and to the goodness of all is to be celebrated. The United Church of Christ deplores the narrow-mindedness that fails to see this and seeks instead to engender fear, hatred, and anxiety."
Other rallies were well-attended by both anti-Islam protesters and their detractors, suggesting that plenty of Americans found the Global Rallies distasteful. For example, gun-toting protesters outside the Henry Ford Centennial Library in Dearborn, Michigan were met by counter-demonstrators calling for peace and unity, reports the Detroit News. Anti-Islamic protesters in Phoenix, Arizona faced counter-demonstrators across a barricade, according to KTAR News.
At least one rally offered some dark humor. Fox 10 reported that Jon Ritzheimer was unhappy about the presence of "Nazis" at a Global Rally gathering in Phoenix, Arizona. A YouTube video shows several Global Rally participants cursing at alleged neo-Nazis, with one man shouting, "This is the Global Rally for Humanity -- humanity, not hate!" Evidently, men who were wallowing in their irrational hatred of Muslims were offended by neo-Nazis' irrational hatred of non-Aryans.
Ultimately, the Global Rally for Humanity events were not genuine attempts to shine light on Islamic extremism, nor were they conversations about the real problems in Islam. Rather, the rallies were about scapegoating Muslims as "other" and cultivating a sense of racial and religious superiority among right-wingers. Rally supporters found it easier to demonize Muslims as the source of America's woes than to examine the complex roots of the challenges our country faces.
Fortunately, many Americans understand the difference between extremists and law-abiding Muslims. Most Americans are smart enough to reject conspiracy theories about Farrakhan and President Obama. Most Americans wisely avoided the Global Rally for Humanity events in their cities, unmoved by the fever dreams of right-wingers. Because of people like that, I'm optimistic about my country.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
American Civil Liberties Union: A Rally Around Hatred
Freak Out Nation: The Only Thing Missing From The Anti-Muslim Protests Nationwide Today Were The Protesters
CNN: Global Rally for Humanity is anti-American
Huffington Post: Sorry, Islamophobes: Your Anti-Muslim Rallies Ended Up Inspiring Acts Of Love And Service