Friday morning, a friend texted me: “Anti-Muslim hate group is holding a rally in Waterbury tomorrow. Call me!” I was barely awake but I was pissed. I spent the rest of the day getting ready to protest the rally.
Until this weekend, I’d never been to a protest. I’ve wanted to go, but distance and/or chronic illness usually prevent me. Even Saturday was difficult, standing on my bad hip for two hours straight. But it was worth it.
The Southern Poverty Law Center recognizes ACT for America as a hate group. They’ve long spread anti-Muslim propaganda, but on Saturday they held rallies nationwide in protest of Sharia Law.
Post 9/11, I started studying Islam thanks to my 8th grade teacher, Mrs. Barra. I’m no expert, and I’m sure an actual Muslim can explain it better, but ACT—and many others—are twisting Shari’a to further their anti-Muslim agenda.
Shari’a is the act of following your divine path, or God’s will. At its core, Islam is made up of five pillars, or guidelines for living:
Shari’a is open to interpretation. So yeah, some people do use Shari’a to do terrible things. Those people aren’t true Muslims, though… and no one is trying to impose anything called Sharia Law in the U.S., anyway.
The hate group discusses things like female gender mutilation and oppression of women—which Muslims already condemn. I mean, if you’re really concerned about women’s rights, you should probably focus your energy on assisting Planned Parenthood and keeping the ACA. Usually, though, people railing against “Sharia Law” are just using it as a thinly veiled excuse to abuse Muslims.
Unfortunately, people want to stay angry and ignorant. They want someone to blame for horrible things that happen, and they’ve made Muslims their scapegoat. It takes two seconds to Google the basics of Islam or—gasp—ask an actual Muslim.
On Saturday, several groups in my home city came out to support Muslims, including the ACLU. I wasn’t happy that we had to be there in the first place, but it was truly heartening to see so many different people standing with our Muslim sisters and brothers. It gave me hope.
One man invited people to attend one of the mosques, and another woman told the crowd that her organization will gladly come talk to groups about Islam. Muslims weren’t the only speakers, though. Leaders from local temples, churches, and other places of worship spoke about unity. Several people also implored non-Muslims to speak up if they ever see or hear something wrong. Too many people talked about being afraid to go out in public, but one woman said that, looking at the people who came out, she wasn’t scared.
The protest went well, even with the teachers’ 5K literally running through the rally and protest. Though a couple people walked by and yelled stupid shit at us, everyone was safe. Like my father-in-law said, it was too bad that the people supporting ACT wouldn’t just walk across the street and listen.
Though I walked away with sunburn, I also walked away with hope. I saw a couple people I know there, supporting Muslims in our community. I saw a little boy bravely lead a chant. I saw people in my city—a city that can too often keep its head down and ignore what’s happening—come together.
This weekend they came for the Muslims, and the people of my city said fuck that.