The 2016 election and the victory of Donald Trump as the president of the United States has led to a rise in attacks against African-Americans, immigrants, Muslims and other communities. People have been attacked and murdered, their property destroyed and even bystanders who have tried to stop harassment have been brutally assaulted.
Three men were attacked by white supremacist Jeremy Christian while they were trying to stop a hate attack against two young women, one black and one Muslim, in Portland, Ore. Two of the men who attempted to intervene were stabbed and killed. These incidents are not isolated, and the racist assaults happening in many parts of the country are part of a historic reality of white supremacy in the United States and a rising hostility that is justified by organizations like ACT for America.
A nationwide anti-Muslim rally is planned Saturday by the largest anti-Muslim organization in the country, ACT for America. The rally is scheduled in 26 cities across the country, including in Raleigh.
ACT for America has been identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its demonization of Muslims. The rally is set to take place during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
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ACT for America’s founding member, Brigitte Gabriel, was quoted as saying that any practicing Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.” ACT for America and other anti-Muslim organizations have spawned an “anti-Shariah movement” across the country by creating a fiction that Muslims want to establish Islamic law in violation of local laws and the Constitution. The North Carolina state legislature passed an anti-Shariah law in 2013. A survey of more than 100 anti-Shariah laws introduced around the country reveals that 80 percent of those laws have been introduced by the same legislators who introduced voter suppression, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant and anti-worker laws. Forces that attack Muslims are also likely to oppress other marginalized communities.
Structural racism is established through laws and policies that reduce a group of people to second-class human beings, increase inequality and normalize violence against impacted communities. Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant bigotry and attacks on workers are not solely advanced by fringe groups but ingrained in institutions that allow and re-inforce socioeconomic and political disparities.
The Muslim ban, heightening surveillance and profiling of Muslims and people of color, detention and deportation of immigrants, the school-to-prison pipeline and the prison-industrial complex as well as other patterns of oppression increasingly impact these marginalized communities. Anti-terrorism language and laws are used to demonize the social-justice movement, including protests against police brutality. Many states across the country have recently introduced laws to punish social-justice protests, labeling them as “economic terrorism.” They are also used to create a climate of hostility, fear and division to promote and justify wars and military actions against people from marginalized communities and targeted countries.
While bigotry and discrimination are employed to breed fear and hatred in the community, we have a choice to build a movement that advances social justice and human rights for all. Any form of discrimination based on one’s ethnicity, religion, class, citizenship, gender or sexuality should be challenged through an intersectional movement. This movement has to bring together the voices and experiences of the communities facing structural and institutional racism, economic crisis and displacement.
We need organized community safety responses led by Muslims, black youth, immigrants and people of color, not unaccountable armed militia groups, as proposed by the Portland GOP chair, that can exploit a moment like this to intimidate and displace people from public spaces. Grassroots people’s assemblies are emerging across the country to build sustainable movements that center on leadership by impacted communities, and allow people from all backgrounds to join a broad movement because we are stronger together. Such a broad-based movement will allow us to bring forward a social transformation and eliminate oppression. In the words of Pakistani poet and freedom -ighter, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, “We shall witness the day when enormous mountains of tyranny will blow away like cotton.”
Manzoor Cheema of Raleigh is a member of Muslims for Social Justice and a field organizer for Atlanta-based Project South, a group that develops leaders in communities affected by economic injustice.