Group against radical Islam will face off with Muslim advocates in the South Bay

Tatiana Sanchez| San Jose Mercury News| Link to Article

In this file photo, community members stand in support of local muslims and in front of the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. In cities all over the country, civil rights, faith groups, immigrant rights leaders, and community activists gathered to support immigrants and refugees in the wake of President Trump’s slew of executive orders. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

In this file photo, community members stand in support of local muslims and in front of the Evergreen Islamic Center in San Jose, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. In cities all over the country, civil rights, faith groups, immigrant rights leaders, and community activists gathered to support immigrants and refugees in the wake of President Trump’s slew of executive orders. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

SANTA CLARA — A national nonprofit aimed at combating Islamic extremism but considered anti-Muslim by some will face off with Muslim supporters Saturday in dueling South Bay rallies.

ACT for America, a grassroots organization that describes itself as the “NRA of National Security” will host a rally from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the corner of Stevens Creek Boulevard and Winchester Avenue to denounce Islamic Sharia law, a personal moral code and religious law that forms part of the Islamic tradition. Criticized by some as the origin for Islamic extremism, organizers say the law is “incompatible with Western democracy and the freedoms it affords.”

The organization will host rallies in nearly 30 cities across the U.S on Saturday in what it says is a fight against radical Islam and in particular, violence against women and honor killings.

“ACT for America opposes no peaceful practice of any religious faith,” the group said in a prepared statement. “In fact, we stand steadfast with the right of every American to their faith. This includes peaceful Islam. The elements that make up much of Sharia law, however, are not about religion, but oppression. Sharia is a rule of barbaric law masquerading in the name of religion. It is this we stand against, not peaceful Islam.”

Santa Clara police spokesman Lt. Dan Moreno said the demonstration will likely be small, but the department will have extra patrols in the area. A Facebook page for the event says only 26 people plan to attend. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a national group aimed at combating hate and bigotry on behalf of vulnerable and marginalized communities, labeled ACT for America an extremist group that promotes anti-Muslim ideology.

Representatives from more than 100 Bay Area civil rights and faith-based groups will answer back Saturday with a nearby demonstration at the intersection of Stevens Creek Boulevard and Santana Row in San Jose. Organizers claim ACT has disingenuously branded the event a demonstration against Sharia and has “made it their mission to villainize Muslims, building a platform to perpetuate and promote the most hateful language imaginable.”

Participating organizations will include the Council on American-Islamic Relations, PACT, the ACLU and Meet a Muslim, among many others.

San Jose police spokesman Albert Morales said the department has been in contact with event organizers and they anticipate that everyone’s First Amendment rights will be respected.

“There will be zero tolerance for any acts of violence, vandalism or civil unrest,” he wrote in an email.

ACT said on its website that it canceled a March Against Sharia event in Arkansas after learning the local organizer had ties to white supremacist groups.

“This is against all our values,” ACT said in a statement on its website about the Arkansas cancellation. “We stand firmly opposed to any actions by individuals or organizations that seek to attack or intimidate based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.”