Support for Muslim Community Prevails over Fear and Prejudice in Rival Rallies

Diane Andrews | The Santa Clara Weekly| Link to Article

American Congress for Truth (ACT) for America supporters rallying out of fear of Muslims, who they believe are infiltrating the Islamic code of law into the U.S. legal system, were far outnumbered by hundreds of Unity with Muslims supporters staging a counter-rally on June 10 in Santa Clara–home to a Muslim community and mosque. From 11 a.m. until about 3 p.m., each group staked out its own street corner at the busy intersection of Stevens Creek Blvd. and Winchester Blvd., bordering San Jose.

At one afternoon count, 21 Islamic law protestors shared a corner with a handful of Peace supporters and the Santa Clara Green Party. The Refuse Fascism organization shared a third street corner with San Jose Brown Berets.

Unity rally organizers estimated attendance at approximately 1,000 just on their corner as people came and went throughout the peaceful afternoon, each group keeping mostly to its own corner. They handed out flowers, U.S. flags, copies of the U.S. constitution and flyers.

They waved flags. They held up placards reading "We Are All One People," "No! Stop Trump/Pence Fascist Regime" and "Sharia Law Opposes the Constitution."

Sharia law is Islam's legal system. It is derived from the Koran (the holy book of Islam) and the rulings of Islamic scholars. As an Islamic code for living, it is interpreted differently from country to country and from Muslim to Muslim. In its harsh interpretation, punishment for offenses can be, for example, the amputation of a hand for theft or caning or stoning to death for certain offenses.

"Hey, hey, ho, ho. Islamophobia has got to go," chanted the Unity with Muslims crowd, comprised of 131 co-sponsoring community and faith-based organizations. They had been rallied by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), headquartered in Santa Clara; People Acting in Community Together (PACT); and Meet a Muslim.

ACT for America

The nonprofit ACT for America, founded in 2007, states on its website that it has over 525,000 members and stands "for the protection of the United States of America and the Western values upon which our nation was built."

"To address the threat presented by those who seek to destroy our Western way of life," on June 10, ACT sponsored 28 nationwide rallies against Islamic (Sharia) law. The Santa Clara rally was one of four in California, with others in Oceanside, Roseville and San Bernardino.

ACT claims on its website to respect all human rights. However, the Southern Poverty Law Center describes ACT as having "grown into far and away the largest grassroots, anti-Muslim group in America."

"ACT is a vitriolic hate group that wants to deprive Muslims and others of their human and civil rights," said CAIR San Francisco Bay Area Executive Director Zahra Billoo.

"ACT doesn't want to talk to media because they distort what we say," said a woman at the ACT rally who refused to identify herself. "They just call us alarmists and racists."

Although not an ACT member, San Jose resident Alberta Brierly, a retired Santa Clara Library clerk, is also concerned about Sharia law in America.

"I'm here because ....some judges accept cases under Sharia law instead of U.S. laws of the constitution. I'd have to look up which ones," said Brierly.

"If we lose adherence to our constitution, our country is doomed to become another third world country run by a dictator," she continued. "I'm not talking about Trump. Trump gets it, and he is sincerely trying to make our country great again."

"Muslims are fine if they live according to our laws of the U.S. constitution," said Brierly.

Unity with Muslims Counter-Rally

Youcef Sahraoui, 13, lives in Santa Clara but goes to school in Cupertino. He and his mom, who was born in Algeria, stood in unity with hundreds of others on the crowded corner by the Santana Row shopping complex.

"I'm part of the Muslim religion. I felt I should come here because I want to show that not all Muslims are bad," said Sahraoui. "Since the Trump election, at school some people call me 'terrorist.' I tell them, 'I'm an American, too, just like you.'"

"The atmosphere in our current political system seems to give permission for people to show racism," said San Jose resident Deb Sanfilippo, standing nearby. "I feel like those of us with the conviction that all are created equal have to stand up when others are being oppressed."

Inaaya Yousuf, 9, from West San Jose was handing out flowers with her mom, Razina Yousuf.

"I feel proud to be here and stand up for me and my fellow Muslims," said Inaaya.

"I'm really proud that so many people are here in support of the Muslim community," said Santa Claran Mohammad Nadeem, an Indian-born Muslim. "We are very grateful to all Americans."

"No ban, no fear. All humans are welcome here," chanted the Refuse Fascism group. "No ban, no wall. America is a hope to all."

"We were blown away by the overwhelming response, the incredible love and everyone's commitment to making our effort to respond to hate with love a success," stated Billoo.