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Responding to Anti-Muslim Hate With Love

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The hate Islamberg expected from an anti-Muslim rally was overshadowed by an outpouring of love from their neighbors.
Islamberg, a rural enclave in the USA, is home to a predominantly Muslim population. The town’s name and unique history has often made it a target of Islamophobic threats. But recently, the hate Islamberg expected from an anti-Muslim rally was overshadowed by an outpouring of love from their interfaith neighbors. More than 400 people reportedly traveled to Islamberg to show a solid front against the “American Bikers United Against Jihad”, a group whose stated goal is to mobilize like-minded “patriots” against “violent and stealth Jihad,” which they claim is threatening their freedom and security.
On a Facebook page for the event, advertised as a “Ride for National Security,” the group called on bikers to join them in protest against Islamberg, claiming the town had links to terrorist organizations. Although 73 people accepted the online invite, only about five bikers showed up. But Islamberg’s 200 residents were surrounded by hundreds of people who traveled to the town to participate in a counter-rally for peace. They held up signs and waved American flags as the bikers rode by. After the rally, the counter-protestors banded together for a luncheon, a series of talks, and a tour of the town and its mosque.
Islamberg officials said that the peace rally was proposed by people who did not live in the town and who found details about the bike rally online. Dr. Bilqees Abdullah, a resident of Islamberg for about 30 years, said that the show of support from the local community was “heartwarming.” “To see so many people come and join and actually say: ‘This isn’t right, this isn’t fair, and we’re not going for it,’ it’s wonderful. Very wonderful,” she said.
Peace activist, Michelle Osterhoudt said that it was important for her to support Islamberg’s residents because “they have been target of hate for over 10 years now.” “I hope that by showing up in such a large group, we could show the nation, and perhaps the world, that peace and love prevail,” Osterhoudt wrote in an email. “I can now speak on behalf of my Islamberg friends and let everyone know what I always believed to be true: the residents of Islamberg are a peaceful community with families just like yours and mine.”
In October 2015, armed protestors tried to set up hate rallies at mosques and Muslim community centers around America. The majority of these events were canceled and in the end, the rallies ended up encouraging interfaith activists in local communities to show up to show their solidarity for their Muslim neighbors.
(Extracted from Carol Kuruvilla’s article “5 Bikers Showed Up For An Anti-Muslim Rally. 400 People Had Another Idea” on huffingtonpost.com].