June 11 (UPI) — Demonstrators spurred by one of the largest grass-roots anti-Muslim groups in the United States rallied against Sharia law over the weekend and in some cases were met by larger crowds of counterprotesters, observers said.
The Act for America group, labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, organized nearly two dozen rallies Saturday called “March Against Sharia.” The participants rallied against the implementation of Sharia law — a legal code according to Islam and the Koran — in the United States
Sharia law does not legally exist in the United States, though some states have passed legislation preventing laws based on Islam. The Los Angeles Times cited legal experts who said there’s no legal way to implement Sharia law — or other foreign criminal or civil codes — in the United States, and to do so would be a violation of the separation of church and state.
Act for America said it specifically wanted to raise awareness of genital mutilation, which it blames on Sharia law.
One participant, Dan Dagen, from Seattle, said Sharia law threatens free speech.
“It’s just not compatible with American values,” he told the Seattle Times.
“Many aspects of Sharia law run contrary to basic human rights and are completely incompatible with our laws and our democratic values,” Act for America says on its website.
But in some cities, like New York City, the “March Against Sharia” crowd was met by a larger group of counterprotesters.
Those who came out against the “March Against Sharia” called the participants Islamophobic and said many of the customs cited by the anti-Sharia demonstrators are extremist and not practiced by most Muslims in the United States.
“It’s like the Ten Commandments for Muslims. It’s nothing to be enforced upon anyone. It’s a moral code that I follow for myself as an individual,” Muslim youth leader Mansoor Shams told NPR.
“If they’re against Sharia, are you against feeding the poor? Are you against being friendly, showing love? Because essentially that is Sharia,” said Asthma Elhuni, from the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
In Seattle, confrontations between the opposing groups led to the arrest of three people. During one fight, protesters threw water bottles at police officers, and officers used pepper spray.
The Minnesota State Patrol arrested seven people in Saint Paul and Capitol Police in Pennsylvania arrested two people.
In some cases, those against Sharia law showed up to the rally armed with guns, like those who gathered at a Richardson, Texas, mosque.