Rick Ellis yells at Muslim attendees of Muslim Capitol Day in Austin, Tex., in January. Rallies scheduled across the country on Saturday, including in Austin, aim to attack Islamic law. (Ilana Panich-Linsman/For The Washington Post)
Rick Ellis yells at Muslim attendees of Muslim Capitol Day in Austin, Tex., in January. Rallies scheduled across the country on Saturday, including in Austin, aim to attack Islamic law. (Ilana Panich-Linsman/For The Washington Post)

An increasingly vocal anti-Muslim activist group is holding protest rallies in numerous cities across the country Saturday, marching in opposition to Islamic law, which the group believes is threatening American society.

ACT for America, a lobbyist organization with close ties to the Trump administration that has helped pass state-level bills targeting Islamic law and refugees, organized the protests as a nationwide “March against Sharia.” A few thousand people in nearly two dozen states have registered for the marches on the group’s Facebook pages while numerous civil rights organizations, interfaith groups and lawmakers have condemned the rallies as hate speech.

The marches set up the potential for more public clashes between far-right activists and their far-left opposition, similar to recent violent encounters between the political extremes in Berkeley, Calif. and Portland, Ore. While demonstrators argue they are protecting free speech and defending traditional American values, counterprotesters say the marchers underscore a larger trend of intolerance that is increasingly evident across a politically divided country.

“I think what this tells us is the magnitude of anti-Muslim sentiment is pretty severe, and it has been emboldened in this environment in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen in a very long time,” said Manar Waheed, who serves as legislative and advocacy counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union.

ACT said its supporters plan to march Saturday in front of state capitol buildings in nearly half a dozen states, including Texas, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. In New York City, they plan to rally in downtown Manhattan, and in San Bernardino, Calif., they are set to march outside the Inland Regional Center, site of the 2015 terrorist attack that killed 14 people during an office holiday party.

Organized in part to memorialize the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the marches aim to raise awareness of what ACT sees as the negative effects of Muslim immigration to the United States. ACT frames its cause as a human rights issue.

“Sharia is incompatible with Western democracy and the freedoms it affords,” the group wrote on its website, announcing the march. ACT is “committed to protecting women and children from Sharia Law,” which it described as “including honor killing and Female Genital Mutilation.”

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SOURCE: Abigail Hauslohner 
The Washington Post

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