WASHINGTON – Anti-Shari`ah rallies planned across America by extremist ACT for America group, claiming to protect women, has triggered condemnations from American Muslim women, who accused these movements of formenting anti-Muslim bias and hate crimes.
“These individuals cannot speak authoritatively about my rights as a Muslim woman,” Daisy Khan, executive director of the Women’s Islamic Initiative for Spirituality and Equality, told Huffpost on Friday, June 9.
ACT for America claims to be “committed to protecting women and children,” but its tactics tend to have the opposite effect on Muslim women, said Rana Abdelhamid, founder of the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment.
“Its rhetoric and actions empower bigots who target Muslim women and put us all at risk in the face of this type of extremist violence,” Abdelhamid said.
Planning their rallies on Saturday, June 10, ACT for America, a national grassroots anti-Muslim organization designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist group, claims its “March Against Shari`ah” events are an effort to protect Muslim women and children from Islamic law.
The group asserts that scattered incidents of honor killings and female genital mutilation in the US are evidence that Shari`ah, a system of Islamic jurisprudence, is slowly creeping into American society.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of MuslimGirl.com, said even the term “anti-Shari`ah” is little more than coded language for anti-Muslim bigotry. This rhetoric, she said, “motivates acts of hatred” against Muslim women.
“We are still reeling from the news of two Muslim children being harassed on public transportation when three non-Muslim allies intervened to their defense and had their throats slashed,” she said. “For ACT for America to claim that they have Muslim women’s best interest at heart is not even ironically humorous, it’s just perverse.”
The rhetoric was defied by Muslim women, who are the prime victim of hate attacks.
“We want to feel safe,” Abdelhamid said.
“We want to be able to walk down the street and not feel like our lives are at risk because we choose to practice our faith, a fundamental human right. We also want hate groups to stop using us as an excuse for their bigotry.”
Muslim women working to affect change in culture, politics and religion already know this to be true.
“There is no shortage of Muslim American women who do not need anti-Muslim zealots claiming to save us from a religion that has empowered us all to be who we are today,” said Linda Sarsour, an activist and one of the organizers of the historic Women’s March on Washington.
From “politicians like Ilhan Omar to academics like Dalia Mogahed to mental health providers like Kameelah Rashad to those working on women inclusion and integration in mosques like Sister Aisha Aladawiya and Hind Makki to vocal activists and survivors of FGM like Maryam Saifee to anti-racism trainers like Margari Hill to civil rights attorneys like Zahra Billoo,” Sarsour said, there are endless examples of Muslim women promoting their own empowerment without the help of ACT for America.
“If the public wants to help Muslim women,” Al-Khatahtbeh said, “how about actually listening to them?”