Ral­lies against Is­lamic law draw coun­ter­protests in two dozen cities

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY GENE JOHN­SON

SEAT­TLE | De­mon­stra­tors around the coun­try ral­lied to protest Is­lamic law, say­ing it is in­com­pat­i­ble with West­ern democ­racy. But many of the ral­lies drew even more rau­cous coun­ter­protests by peo­ple who called such fears un­founded.

The demon­stra­tions were held in more than two dozen U.S. cities, in­clud­ing Seat­tle, New York and Chicago.

Hun­dreds of coun­ter­protesters marched through down­town Seat­tle be­hind a large sign say­ing “Seat­tle stands with our Mus­lim neigh­bors.” They marched to City Hall, where dozens of anti-Shariah pro­test­ers ral­lied. Po­lice used tear gas to dis­perse rowdy de­mon­stra­tors and ar­rested three peo­ple.

In front of the Trump build­ing in down­town Chicago, about 30 peo­ple demon­strated against Is­lamic law and in fa­vor of Pres­i­dent Trump, shouting slo­gans and hold­ing signs that read “Ban Sharia” and “Sharia abuses women.” About twice as many coun­ter­protesters mar­shaled across the street.

A sim­i­lar scene played out in a park near a New York court­house, where coun­ter­protesters sounded airhorns and banged pots and pans in an ef­fort to si­lence an anti-Shariah rally. In St. Paul, Min­nesota, state troop­ers ar­rested about a half-dozen peo­ple when scuf­fles broke out at the close of com­pet­ing demon­stra­tions at the state Capi­tol.

“The theme of to­day is drown­ing out racism,” said New York coun­ter­protester Tony Mur­phy, stand­ing next to de­mon­stra­tors with col­or­ful earplugs. “The more racists get a plat­form, the more peo­ple get at­tacked.”

The ral­lies, held in more than two dozen U.S. cities, were or­ga­nized by ACT for Amer­ica, which claims Is­lamic law is in­com­pat­i­ble with West­ern democ­racy.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion said it op­poses dis­crim­i­na­tion and sup­ports the rights of those sub­ject to Shariah. How­ever, the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, which tracks hate groups, calls it the largest Amer­i­can anti-Mus­lim group.

“I don’t be­lieve Is­lam can peace­fully co­ex­ist with the Con­sti­tu­tion,” said Seat­tle anti-Shariah demon­stra­tor Aaron Bass­ford, 29. “We need unity in this coun­try un­der no ide­ol­ogy and no ban­ner ex­cept the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States of Amer­ica.”

In Seat­tle, ac­tivists set up an “Ask an Amer­i­can Mus­lim” booth to give rally par­tic­i­pants on ei­ther side a chance to speak with a Mus­lim.

“Amer­i­can Mus­lims sup­port the Amer­i­can val­ues and free­doms we all cher­ish,” said Ar­salan Bukhari, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the state chap­ter of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Is­lamic Re­la­tions.

The marches come amid a rise in reports of anti-Mus­lim in­ci­dents in the U.S., in­clud­ing ar­son at­tacks and van­dal­ism at mosques, ha­rass­ment of women wear­ing Mus­lim head cov­er­ings and bul­ly­ing of Mus­lim school­child­ren.

In Cal­i­for­nia, small but rau­cous demon­stra­tions were held in a hand­ful of cities, in­clud­ing San Bernardino, where a hus­band and wife in­spired by the Is­lamic State group killed 14 peo­ple and wounded 22 in a 2015 shoot­ing at­tack.

Clus­ters of pro­test­ers and coun­ter­protesters gath­ered on four cor­ners of an in­ter­sec­tion at a me­mo­rial to the slain, yelling and wav­ing Amer­i­can flags and posters pro­claim­ing var­i­ous causes. Anti-Is­lamic law de­mon­stra­tors marched past the build­ing where the shoot­ings oc­curred.

“There’s an anti-Trump, a pro-Trump, anti-ex­trem­ists, so there are a va­ri­ety of mes­sages here,” San Bernardino Po­lice spokes­woman Eileen Hards said. “There are so many mes­sages go­ing on that I’m not sure who’s who.”

Anti-Is­lamic law pro­tester Denise Zamora, 39, said she and oth­ers in her group are not op­posed to all Mus­lims.

“We’re anti-Shariah. We’re anti-rad­i­cals,” the Up­land woman said, adding of Shariah: “It’s com­ing in very slowly, and a lot of the refugees are bring­ing that ide­ol­ogy here. All of it is just bar­baric.”

About 300 peo­ple at­tended San Bernardino’s ral­lies. Three were ar­rested on sus­pi­cion of van­dal­ism for smash­ing win­dows of two cars, Ms. Hards said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In more than two dozen cities across the na­tion, the group or­ga­niz­ing the ral­lies, ACT for Amer­ica, spoke against Shariah law, ar­gu­ing it is in­com­pat­i­ble with democ­racy.

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