The nationwide anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America is sponsoring a “March against Sharia” event in Syracuse, Saturday June 10, in coordination with similar events in cities across the country.
CNY Solidarity Coalition rejects the mischaracterization of Sharia, and demonization of our Muslim neighbors by ACT for America and allied groups. We condemn the June 10 event promoting Islamophobia, and urge community members to educate themselves about Islam (see resources below). In the spirit of a community that welcomes religious and cultural pluralism, we extend a hand of friendship and solidarity to our Muslim neighbors at a time when they are being targeted by forces of hate.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups nationwide, describes ACT for America as “far and away the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America, working to advance anti-Muslim legislation at the local and federal level while flooding the American public with wild hate speech demonizing Muslims.”
ACT for America operates under the pretext of “national security,” aiming to “recruit, train, and mobilize citizens, community by community, to help protect and preserve American culture and to keep this nation safe.” They employ fear tactics centered on a prejudiced mischaracterization of “Sharia Law” to stigmatize the Islamic religion as uniquely prone to violence, and tar all Muslims as actual or potential terrorists.
ACT for America couches these bigoted ideas in feminist or pro-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric, stirring up fear of Muslim people, and advancing the idea that Islam is oppressive and dangerous to individuals and to the nation. Founder Brigitte Gabriel believes “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim,” a Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States,” and Arabs “have no soul.” Using the metaphor of deadly pathology, “America is at stage two Islamic Cancer,” she says.
Contrary to Islamophobic stereotypes, terrorism is not unique to any particular religion, ethnicity, or nationality. In fact, more acts of violence and terror have been committed in the US by homegrown hate groups and far-right militants than by Muslims. Rather than monolithic and rigid, the Muslim world is vast and diverse, with multiple different interpretations of the obligations imposed by Sharia upon the observant. Just as there is not one way to be a Christian, Jew, Hindu, Pagan, or Buddhist, so there are multiple interpretations of Sharia within Islam. Gross stereotypes based on the most extreme beliefs to be found within any religious community are misleading and dangerous.
Sharia poses no threat to American life or law for many reasons, one of the most salient being it requires Muslims to follow the law of the land. “This command is binding so long as they are not forced to commit an irreligious act or prevented from fulfilling their religious duties. Thankfully, this is not the case in the U.S. because the Constitution protects freedom of religion” (Islamic Society of CNY).
In accordance with the stance shared by The Islamic Council of Greater Syracuse, representing five Islamic centers around the city, we encourage those who wish to show support for our Muslim neighbors to avoid inadvertently aiding ACT for America’s bid to gain media attention, and instead attend the following events.
1. Say NO to Islamophobia at Islamic Society of CNY, co-sponsored by Syracuse Peace Council, Grace Episcopal Church, and the Syracuse Community Choir. The event begins at 10am at ISCNY, 925 Comstock Ave., Syracuse (some folks are meeting at Grace Church at 9:30 to walk to the mosque). This will be a positive and educational gathering, beginning with an education session and Q&A about Islam, followed by a press conference at 12:30 with statements from community leaders, and songs of peace and justice from the Syracuse Community Choir.
2. Interfaith Works 15th Annual Duck Race to End Racism 12-4pm at Syracuse Inner Harbor. This is a free family festival that brings together people from all over the community. It features a huge line-up of children’s entertainment, cooperative games, face painting, community information booths and duck races galore. It is a celebration with people of many colors, many different backgrounds, and many different walks of life coming together to demonstrate what the world would look like if racism did not exist. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $5 each to participate in the general public Community Duck Race featuring many prizes and gifts.
“We, as American Muslims, feel fortunate to celebrate our holy month with a nation that respects the freedoms of speech and belief, under a constitution that preserves human rights. We also feel blessed being residents of such a great city where diversity is an asset rather than a liability. During this month, Muslims are observing complete fasting from dawn to sunset; we attempt to be more spiritual through showing tolerance, expressing love, accepting others, offering help, sharing meals, and being conscious of and practicing moral values that are shared and embraced by all Americans, believers and non-believers alike. We are happy being part of this friendly and inclusive atmosphere.”
Together we will build a stronger community in Syracuse and Central New York!
- Islamic Society of Central New York, Understanding Shariah
- CAIR, Islam Basics
- CAIR, Islamophobia Monitor on ACT for America
- Southern Poverty Law Center on ACT for America
- Southern Poverty Law Center, Terror from the Right
- Arie Prelinger, The Rising Homegrown Terror Threat on the Right