In response to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s call for the federal government to refuse permits for a far right “Free Speech” rally set for June 4, and a planned “March Against Sharia” on June 10, ACT for America has called off the latter event, directing supporters to a Seattle, Washington version instead. Mayor Wheeler’s call, criticized by civil libertarian groups, came in the wake of the fatal stabbings of Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche by white supremacist Jeremy Christian. The two men had intervened to stop Christian’s harassment of two young women, one of whom is Muslim. Christian since declared, “I hope they all die…I’m a patriot, and I hope everyone I stabbed died.” Mayor Wheeler also called on far right groups to cancel the rallies. The June 4 Portland rally is still slated to occur as is a developing counter-demonstration.
While Mayor Wheeler made the call in the name of opposing bigotry, and hoping to avoid exacerbating a tense situation, ACT for America organizer Scott Ryan Presler somehow turned it into a call for violence against anti-Muslim bigots, writing in a May 31 Facebook post that,
“Due to Mayor Wheeler’s inflammatory comments and what we feel is an incitement of violence, he has shamefully endangered every scheduled participant. Consequently, in order to ensure the safety of those who had planned on attending, we have taken the decision to cancel the Portland March Against Sharia…All planned participants may join us in Seattle, instead, where we will continue to march for true human rights, such as the protection of women and children from barbaric practices.”
The reference to women and children echoes ACT for America’s misleading pretense for holding the events, now scheduled for 22 cities in 17 states. The Washington D.C.-based group casts itself as the “NRA for national security,” and stresses that the march is “against Sharia law and for human rights…We, at ACT for America, are committed to protecting women and children from Sharia Law and its impact on Muslim women and children including honor killing and Female Genital Mutilation.”
Defending women against Sharia and Islam has become a common trope in anti-Muslim mobilizations. While some Muslims do discriminate against women, the same can be said of Christians, Jews and Hindus. Religious nationalists and bigots of all stripes, including those drawn to ACT for America, tend to single out others’ religions for animus. Likewise with sharia law – a set of teachings based on interpretations of the Koran and sayings of Mohammed (Hadith) that largely address the personal devotion and practices of believers – and not unlike the Catholic canon and the Halachah tradition in Judaism in being elaborations on foundational texts. While texts and ancient documents of all of these faiths contain harsh and violent passages, the overwhelming majority of believers are not violent and many dedicate their lives to working for equality and human rights. Anti-Muslim activists also erroneously single out Islam for the practice of female genital mutilation, despite the fact that the Koran does not sanction it, it is uncommon in many Muslim majority countries, and some Christians, Jews and traditional Africans also engage in this cultural practice. This is widely recognized in bodies like the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the United Nations that work to curtail this harmful custom.
ACT for America declares that, “Anyone who traffics in prejudice, or advocates violence in any way towards our moderate Muslim allies does not speak on behalf of ACT for America.” Were this true, ACT founder Brigitte Gabriel would be barred from speaking for the group. In her 2008 book, They Must Be Stopped, Gabriel wrote that,
“Islam…has created and unleashed an uncontrollable wave of hatred and rage, on the world, and we must brace ourselves for the consequences. Going forward we must realize that the portent behind the terrorist attacks is the purest form of what the Prophet Mohammed created. It’s not radical Islam. It’s what Islam is at its core.”
The Seattle event is being organized online by Scott Ryan Presler. Presler describes himself as ACT for America’s Lead Activism Strategist and the Regional Field Director for the Republican Party of Virginia.
In addition to belonging to Facebook groups such as Tea Party and the Virginia Freedom Caucus, Presler wrote a September 2016 review of Milo Yiannopoulos’ Facebook page stating, “I call Milo Yiannopoulos, ‘dad.’ #FreeMilo #BringMiloBack.” Yiannopoulos, who calls Donald Trump “Dad,” is a rabid anti-Muslim bigot and misogynist who defended white nationalists of the alt-right while serving as a Senior Editor at Breitbart News. Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart in February after appearing to endorse pedophilia in an online video. Presler is also an avid supporter of racist President Donald Trump.
As of this morning, Presler claims that a local contact has obtained a permit for the March Against Sharia in Seattle at Victor Steinbrueck Park at 2001 Western Avenue from 10 a.m.–2 p.m. The event was originally announced as taking place at Westlake Center. The City of Seattle’s Special Events Office has not officially issued the permit as of this writing. [Ed. As of June 9, the anti-Muslim rally has again shifted location. It is now scheduled to be held at Seattle City Hall at 600 4th Avenue in Seattle].
Anthony Parish has recently served as a Seattle-based media contact for ACT for America. Parish has been promoting the march on Facebook.
Parish is an occasional speaker for the South Park Missionary Baptist Church in South Seattle and is giving out the church’s phone number for those wanting more information on the event. In a recent Facebook thread, Parish wrote that, “I often correct Muslims who try to deceptively use the Quran to prove that Islam is a religion of peace.” Parish later wrote that,
“Sharia is being ushered in to America under the guise of ‘religious freedom’ by the demands of Muslims who believe that sharia supersedes man made law (i.e. American law) and we cant [sic] have it due to the fact that it will not only effect the Americans [sic] freedom and way of life but destroy it completely.”
Sharia law has been adopted by exactly zero jurisdictions in the United States – the exact number likely to adopt it in the future.