On Sunday October 25, pro-Confederate groups Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County and Orange County Taking Back Orange County organized two concurrent rallies on University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill’s campus. The ‘Confederate/American Stand Against Refugees’ and the ‘Rally to Protect Silent Sam’ were planned to target UNC’s students of color who are working to expose the history of white supremacy on the UNC campus, and oppose the town of Chapel Hill’s appeal to welcome Syrian refugees. Although the two groups pooled Facebook resources to advertise the event and invited a large number of supporters through social media and other means only around 75 people showed up to the actual event.
A counter-protest was organized by students, staff and faculty of UNC, which was joined by the Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia and Jewish Voice for Peace. Counter-protesters greatly outnumbered the pro-Confederacy groups, holding signs that said “Against White Supremacy. Screw the Klan, the confederacy, and the cops.”
Islamophobia on the Rise
In June 2015, The New York Times published an article, which includes statistics that strongly suggest that post-9/11 white supremacists and domestic terrorism have posed a much graver threat than radical Islamic extremists. However, according to a Washington Post article Anti-Islam sentiments and hate crimes against Muslim communities in the United States are five times more common today as compared to 14 years ago. A 2010 Gallup Poll suggests that about 48% of all American Muslims said they have experienced racial or religious discrimination.
Only last Thursday, 19-year-old Manuel Pastuizaca and his brother stabbed a 41-year-old man in the stomach in front of his wife and 5 year-old child, allegedly stating: “I’m going to stab you because you’re Arabic and deserve it.” This follows a series of recent events such as the Ahmed Mohammed clock incident, the burning down of an Islamic school in Houston, and the killings of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which happened only steps away from where the site of Sunday’s UNC rally.
These events are influenced by Countering Violent Extremism operations and the Strong Cities program implemented by the United States Government. U.S. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies profile subjects based on religion, ethnic background and country of origin and carry out sting operations that are targeted at vulnerable members of the Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities. These programs and targeted operations are problematic for a variety of reasons but most importantly they lead Americans to believe that their Anti-Muslim sentiments and actions are justified. The question remains: If the State can do it, why should we stop?
Dalia Fahmy writing for the Huffington Post talks about how “political campaigns have included statements that the US is a Judaeo-Christian country, indicating that Islam has no place here, that a Muslim president could not be trusted, that Muslims should not be included in cabinet positions, and that all mosques should be closed. Essentially, America should exclude Muslims from the definition of what it means to be American.”
She believes that because anti-Muslim sentiment continues to be an accepted part of the American political discourse, and Islamophobia continues to rise, the core values of the constitution and the founding principles of the United States of America are being severely undermined. “Continued silence and acceptance of our political candidates engaging in such vitriol is both racist and un-American.”