On Saturday, June 10, 2017, you’ll have a couple of options if you’re in Seattle and in the mood for protest. From 10 – 2, you could join ACT for America at the City Hall Plaza in their “March Against Sharia – March for Human Rights.” ACT for America is an organization committed to protecting women and children from abuses associated with Sharia Law. They cite female genital mutilation, honor killings, and forced child marriages among their concerns. I share their concern. I’m opposed to all of those practices. But I won’t be part of their event.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, ACT for America is the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the US with over 500K members. (NOTE: I don’t entirely trust the SPLC because they named Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Majiid Nawaz as anti-Muslim extremists for a long time. Good news, though, as their names were recently removed.) I’ve seen ACT in action before, and it wasn’t pleasant.
ACT for America showed up in force to support a teacher accused of presenting a biased depiction of Islam to a middle school class in a rural community. The area was populated by many very conservative Christians who strongly disagreed about which of them would get to heaven, but they united behind the teacher and welcomed support from ACT. The Muslim father of a student in the class sought support from the Council of American Islamic Relations, aka CAIR, which is ready and waiting to label you an Islamophobe should your comments not please them. Well, you can imagine the fun.
I have another option Saturday. I could join a group called “Seattle Stands With Our Muslim Neighbors” in Occidental Square. As much as I don’t want to see any non-violent group hated on, I won’t be there, either. It seems that I occupy a tiny thought-space niche, one in which it’s OK to be concerned about Islam without wanting a Muslim-free country. I don’t actually support my Muslim neighbors unless I know what they think about women and women’s rights. When I once reached out to shake hands with a CAIR representative and actually touched him, he couldn’t wipe off his hand fast enough. That made an impression on me. That doesn’t mean that I want violence to befall him, but it does slow me down a bit when it comes to attending a rally.
Many would put me in the camp of Islamophobes, but that’s OK. Many ex-Muslims are there with me. Their attitudes toward Islam derive from direct experience. Ex-Muslims sometimes join up with organizations like ACT for America, but many others are uncomfortable in those circles. In fact, I find that the more I learn about Islam, Muslims, and ex-Muslims, the more I appreciate how much diversity of thought exists within their circles. Organizations such as CAIR that claim to speak on behalf of Muslims do not speak for the full array of Muslims, and certainly don’t speak for ex-Muslims. Nor does ACT for America speak for me even though I oppose any limitations on the rights of women.
I might go downtown just to watch the excitement. Whether you show up at one or the other event, click some links to learn more about diversity within the Muslim and ex-Muslim community.