Lansing to host March Against Sharia, 'Wash Away the Hate' demonstration Saturday
“We want to protect our constitution, and we want to protect women and Americans everywhere,” Scott Presler, a spokesperson for ACT for America, the grassroots policy organization behind the anti-Sharia march on Saturday, said.
The event’s aim is to rally, educate the public and push for legislative change, Presler said.
ACT for America claims that Sharia oppresses Muslim women and children.
March organizer Stephanie Rowe said she disagrees with practices she believes the Quran teaches — honor killings, domestic violence, child brides, torturing of homosexuals and female genital mutilation.
The march will organize on the 6200 block of South Pennsylvania Avenue in Lansing at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
A much different event will be taking place later that afternoon at the Capitol building, "Wash Away the Hate in Michigan!"
This is not a response to the march, organizer Phoebe Hopps said, founder of the Michigan Women’s March. Instead, they will gather in opposition to growing Islamophobia around the country. The event begins at 3 p.m.
Event organizers are encouraging attendees to come wearing white, Hopps said, and to bring sponges, mops, brooms and trash bags, symbolizing the gathering’s attempt to scrub their state clean of Islamophobia.
The event is co-hosted by several advocacy groups, including Women’s March Michigan, Women Organize Michigan and the Islamic Center of East Lansing.
In response to the anti-Sharia march, the center held an educational session about Sharia last Saturday. Islamic Center secretary Hauwa Abbas called the march “sad” and “disgusting.”
“It’s very sad that it’s happening,” Abbas said. “They’re saying anti-Sharia, but it’s a mixture of anti-Sharia, Islamophobia and refugee hate kind of all in one. It’s just, I don’t know. I can’t believe it.”
Abbas said she expects many members of Muslim community to attend Wash Away the Hate.
Rowe and Presler both maintain that the intention behind the march against Sharia is not to make Muslims feel unwelcome, but to advocate against the institution of Sharia law in American government. Both said they are not opposed to the religion of Islam.
Groups characterizing ACT for America and the march on Saturday as hateful are off the mark, Presler said. The people are marching in support of human rights.
“Some people say that we’re anti-Muslim,” Presler said. “We’re actually helping to fight for Muslim women, who are disproportionately affected the most by these practices. And my question is, 'why aren’t you with us, why aren’t you joining us?'”
The public is blind to the truth about Sharia, he said, and the march will aim at educating them. He wants to know why other groups do not stand in solidarity with them against genital mutilation, forcing women into marriage and honor violence, all of which, he said, were taking place on U.S. soil.
“This isn’t something in Australia or in Europe or even Canada,” Presler said. “This is here in our country and people need to wake up.”
The Lansing march is just one of 29 events planned around the country by ACT for America organizers, Presler said. Event attendees and speakers will include members of the LGBTQ community, practicing and reformist Muslims, apostates and a female genital mutilation survivor who will address the crowd in Austin, Texas.
Hopps said she understands ACT for America’s push for human rights, but does not agree with some of the aspects affiliated with their message — the belief that all Muslims participate in horrific acts and consequently must leave the country.
There are Muslims in the world that condone some of these practices, Abbas said, but they are few and far between in this country, and almost certainly none of them are a part of the community at the Islamic Center of East Lansing.
Some members of the Muslim community are worried for their safety, Abbas said. Many refugee and Muslim families live in the neighborhoods near where marchers will organize, and feel threatened by the prospect of what they see as an anti-Muslim group marching by their homes. Their worries are exacerbated by fears that many of the protesters will be armed.
Some protesters are sure to exercise their right to carry firearms, Rowe said, but none of the people she is affiliated with are looking to harm anyone. The organizers have called in extra security, she said, enlisting militia groups like the Michigan Oathkeepers to ensure that protesters are kept safe.
“I didn’t even know that there were refugees in the area,” Rowe said. “Nobody’s targeting refugees, nobody’s targeting Muslims.”
None of the people she has been coordinating with are interested in a show of force or scaring anyone, Rowe said. She heard of a few groups planning to counter-protest and expects that they will be armed as well. No violence is expected, as she trusts the police to keep the peace.
Presler said around 500,000 women in the U.S. are either at risk of undergoing or have undergone female genital mutilation, quoting a study referenced by ACT for America on its website. Rowe also mentioned that she had seen a similar figure.
, published in 2012, calculated the “at risk” figure by looking at the prevalence rates for the practice in countries around the world. The scientists then multiplied those numbers by the number of women born in that country or who had a parent born in that country.
Abbas said the mutilations are a rare practice. Further, she does not understand fears of Sharia asserting itself in American government. Sharia commands Muslims to follow the law of the land, unless it directly contradicts Sharia. Sharia also affords many rights to members of the Muslim community, she said. By protesting Sharia, they protest the human rights it espouses.
“Who is trying to implement it?” Abbas said. “We just want our basic rights.”