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On Saturday, June 10th, thousands of protestors rallied all over the United States in opposition of Islam and Sharia laws. But on that same day, twice the number of people stood up in unity with Muslims and other minorities who face the same discrimination, racism, and bigotry everyday of their lives.
Here in Atlanta, along with others from the AtlantaMuslim.com team, joined CAIR-Georgia at Masjid Al-Farooq. I gave a short speech, along with other representatives from Roswell Community Masjid, the Islamic Speakers Bureau, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, Black Lives Matter of Greater Atlanta, Gentle Spirit Christian Church, and many others, with the intention of displaying a different image than the one being played out just miles away at Piedmont Park, where anti-Islam protestors shouted words of hatred and spewed ideas of ignorance.
“It pains me that the hate group meeting in Piedmont Park right now has dared to call its deeply discriminatory demonstration a march for human rights,” said Michael O’Reilly from Amnesty International during the rally.
And it wasn’t just in Georgia. In cities like Denver, New York, Boston, and Seattle, as well as other smaller cities all over the country, people who believed they knew what defined Islam and what represented Sharia took to the streets in divided ignorance. Organized by the ACT group, often recognized as a hate group and the largest anti-Muslim organization in the U.S., these rallies were an ultimate failure as they were outnumbered by counter protests that promoted love, peace, a stance against all forms of extremism and bigotry, and most importantly, unapologetic diversity.
Elise Cohen, a representative of Jewish Voices for Peace, said, “In my community, many of us are children or grandchildren of immigrants and we remember what it was like to be turned away as refugees, and some of us accepted. We remember what it was like to encounter bigotry, to hit the glass ceiling.”
Organized by CAIR, Georgia Muslims bought together this interfaith rally that invited everyone from everywhere to join in unified efforts to peacefully and nonviolently battle the ideas that encouraged extremist views and the bigotry that was being displayed in other areas of the city by Islamophobic protestors. Along with the speeches, people of all religions, backgrounds, ethnicities, and gender identities also donated over 500 pounds of food that was then given to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
“Sharia is feeding the starving. Sharia is helping the needy. Being kind to our neighbors. Wanting for our fellow humans what we want for ourselves. It’s standing against injustice. This is sharia,” said Asma El-Huni, CAIR-GA’s Outreach director.
In a year where anti-Muslim incidents of violence across the country have risen 57% since 2016, there has not been a time when we were as together in peace, humility, and acceptance as we were on Saturday. There was no other place in Georgia that was filled with so many people who had no intention but to hold hands and fight a universal form of ignorance that has pained everyone, not just Muslims.
With anti-Muslim hate crimes rising up to 57% since 2016, it is not always easy to say there is no fear among us. But we stand united with everyone in our community, and we fear nothing.
And in Malcolm X’s own words: “If you're not ready to die for it, put the word 'freedom' out of your vocabulary.”
Alaa Elassar is the managing editor of AtlantaMuslim.com and has worked for CNN International as a writing and production intern. A senior at Georgia State University and a political science and journalism double major, Alaa's writing and passions surround justice and politics.
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