ACT for America, the nation’s largest anti-Muslim grassroots group, announced today that it is coordinating a series of protests across the nation on June 10. The protests, branded “March Against Sharia,” will explicitly target Muslim communities, raising the specter of Islamic law as a fear mongering tactic.
The events are being organized by conservative activist and unapologetic Trump supporter Scott Presler, who serves as ACT for America’s field operations coordinator.
ACT’s announcement of the events relies heavily on the group’s Islamophobia, purporting to explain “why Sharia is incompatible with Western democracy and the freedoms it affords.” ACT for America’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, regularly conflates all Muslims with terrorists, once saying that “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim” and that Muslims are a “natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western society.”
Although the “March Against Sharia” events claim to support religious freedom, Gabriel has also claimed that a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”
The organized anti-Muslim movement has long sought to spread fear of Islam by arguing that Shariah law, or Islamic law, poses a threat to American laws–a complete legal falsehood.
David Yerushalmi, the legal mastermind behind the anti-Muslim strategy of introducing anti-Shariah bills in state legislatures across the country, told the New York Times in 2011 that passing the bills was not even the goal. Instead, he wanted to use the idea of Shariah to spread fear of Muslims. “If this thing passed in every state without any friction, it would have not served its purpose,” Yerushalmi said. “The purpose was heuristic — to get people asking this questions, ‘What is Shariah?’”
The June 10 protests against that phantom threat are another tactic of this anti-Muslim strategy.
ACT for America has announced “March Against Sharia” protests in 23 cities nationally, including in major cities such as Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York City. The full slate of events is included in the map below, from the Center for New Community.
The events are primarily being publicized through the Twitter account @MarchAgstSharia, using the hashtag #MarchAgainstSharia. Presler has also created multiple Facebook events featuring ACT for America’s official logo to publicize the protests.
ACT for America has made the news in recent months because of its unprecedented access to the White House despite the group’s extremist positions. ACT for America’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has had at least one official meeting with White House staff. Gabriel even told CBN News that she dined with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago on the evening last month that he decided to bomb Syria.
To underscore some of the extremist elements this march is attracting, a cadre of far-right figures are scheduled to speak at the Manhattan event. Scott Presler, who will be representing ACT, is slated to speak alongside anti-government militia and white nationalist “alt-right” figures. According to a Facebook page for the event, one of the scheduled speakers is Frank Morganthaler of the New York State Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group.
Gavin McInnes and Maxwell Hare, representing the so-called Proud Boys, will also speak at the event. The Proud Boys is a bizarre, chauvinistic sect of the “alt-right” that champions white men and, according to them, the superiority of white western culture. Proud Boys are also known for promoting and engaging in violence, mostly against anti-fascist protesters, something the group’s leader McInnes has embraced.
Event organizers have also announced that far-right militia groups and Proud Boys will be providing security at the rallies.
Lindsay Schubiner is the Advocacy Director at the Center for New Community. This blog was co-authored by Imagine2050 staff.