ACT for America, a national security grassroots organization, held “March Against Sharia Law” events on June 10 in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. The marches were “in memory and support of victims of FGM (female genital mutilation), honor killings, and violence toward the LGBTQ community in the name of religion, culture or foreign law,” according to ACT for America’s website.
Yet a Washington Post article insisted on describing the participants as “anti-Muslim activists” and said there were two white supremacist groups that participated in the rallies. NBCnews.com also stated the rallies were “projected to be ACT for America’s largest protest against Islam.”
Both media outlets maintained the Southern Poverty Law Center designates ACT for America as a hate group.
Founder Brigitte Gabriel adamantly defends her group as anti-Sharia, not anti-Muslim. The speakers at the events also repeated and defended that point. ACT for America has several goals: It’s trying to confront terrorism, preserve the Constitution, secure the border, work for energy independence, empower women, and stand with Israel.
Islamicsupremecouncil.org defines Sharia simply as Islamic law. It is “the disciplines and principles that govern the behavior of a Muslim individual towards his or herself, family, neighbors, community, city, nation and the Muslim polity as a whole, the Ummah. Similarly, Sharia governs the interactions between communities, groups and social and economic organizations.”
The controversy over Sharia stems from its brutal call for execution, amputation, and flogging as forms of punishment for crimes such as adultery, homosexuality and theft. After the Department of Justice commissioned a study in 2015, it estimated there were between 23 and 27 honor killings in the United States; over 90 percent of these victims were murdered for being “too westernized.”
Saturday’s turnout was fairly small; those protesting the events outnumbered those marching in some cases. Some pro-Muslim individuals used bullhorns and cowbells to shout down those marching as anti-Sharia demonstrators, accusing them of hating Muslims.
However, in response to the canceled march in Arkansas due to its association with a white supremacist organizer, ACT for America wrote, “We stand firmly opposed to any actions by individuals or organizations that seek to attack or intimidate based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. Our June 10th nationwide marches are in support of basic human rights for all — and against the horrific treatment of women, children, and members of the LGBTQ community that is sanctioned by Sharia law.”
ACT for America does not say all Muslims abide by Sharia law. Saturday’s event was not a call to fear Muslims or a rally of intolerance. It was instead an effort to support human rights for all people regardless of gender or sexual orientation. These people gathered out of concern for the influence Sharia law might have both in the United States and worldwide.
It is not hateful to stand for human rights and against brutality, as ACT for America claims it is doing. Nor is it wrong to protest the abuse and mistreatment of women. Is that hateful? No. Hurtful? Possibly.
No religious group wants to be depicted as intolerant. Christians feel the brand of bigotry. Their beliefs are often misunderstood and just as often misrepresented as discriminatory. However, a clear explanation of conviction and biblical interpretation are the resources best used to defend that faith.
Accusations and shouting matches do not lead to conversions. Peaceful protests, however, are a protected right. As described by ACT for America, not the media, the motive behind the marches was to educate others about the threat of Sharia law, regardless of that likelihood — and stand against wrongdoing on behalf of all life.