South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national civil rights and racial justice organization, believes ACT for America's decision to cancel its Sept. 9 nationwide series of anti-Muslim rallies is a victory against white supremacy and Islamophobia. ACT felt the need to separate itself from the violent white supremacist groups exposed in Charlottesville recently, which is a triumph for South Asian, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Hindu, and Middle Eastern communities nationwide. Nevertheless, we must not forget that violent tenets of white supremacy underpin ACT for America's core mission to authorize Islamophobia through state sanctioned discrimination.
"White supremacy and Islamophobia are incompatible with core American values of justice and equality. ACT for America's decision to cancel its Islamophobic rallies is a clear signal that messages of love are drowning out messages of hate," stated Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT. "This is in no small terms a victory and is emblematic of the power of standing together, united from all faiths and backgrounds against bigotry and division."
ACT, reportedly the nation's largest anti-Muslim hate group, was planning over 67 rallies in 36 states under the theme "America First" just two days before the anniversary of the events of Sept. 11, 2001 to target and manufacture hatred for Muslim Americans at a time when violence against Muslim communities remains at a high pitch. ACT's founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has made her racism clear, stating on numerous occasions, "Every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim" and Muslims are a "natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western society." In a video message launching the Sept. 9 rallies, Gabriel exclaimed, "Let's show our president that we are behind him in securing our nation."
The president, likewise, has made his racism clear, stating on the record, "I think Islam hates us," supporting his administration's dogged pursuit of a "Muslim Ban" among other policies, and essentially validating white supremacist violence in his recent statements in response to Charlottesville. The administration's rhetoric, policies, and white supremacist allegiances have emboldened hate violence against our communities. Since the election of Donald Trump, SAALT has documented 141 incidents of violence against those who identify or are perceived as Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Middle Eastern, or Arab American, already surpassing totals from the year leading up to the election.
ACT already attempted to fan the flames of Islamophobia earlier this summer with little success. In June ACT held similar Islamophobic rallies in 30 cities across the nation under the theme "March Against Shariah." This effort was a resounding failure, and was met with strong resistance from civil rights groups who held alternative events that far outnumbered the size and scope of ACT's efforts. The White House was silent in response.
Despite the administration's selective silence, our communities continue to decry and mobilize against Islamophobia and white supremacy of any kind, and it's evident that groups such as ACT for America are hearing our message loud and clear. It's high time the administration and the president, along with all elected and appointed officials, condemn Islamophobia and white supremacy in the clearest and strongest terms to ensure that our communities can live in a just and inclusive society for all Americans.