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Rights groups warn of anti-Muslim rallies this weekend

Kyla Smith
The Detroit News

Civil rights groups called Thursday for vigilance in the face of planned rallies Friday and Saturday at mosques in Dearborn and other U.S. cities by anti-Muslim demonstrators, saying that rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail is stirring up prejudice.

“We have presidential candidates who are willing to say absolutely outrageous statements that are anti-Muslim,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Thursday during a conference call. “We also have the highest level of political candidates that are saying things that are blatantly unconstitutional.”

The Council of Islamic-American Relations urged mosques earlier this week to “consider instituting additional safety measures in response to hate rallies by possibly armed anti-Muslim extremists targeting mosques nationwide on Oct. 10.”

In an email statement Thursday, CAIR-Michigan urged residents to participate Saturday in community service projects and said people “are discouraged from engaging the armed protesters.”

The “Global Rally for Humanity” is being promoted in numerous cities on Facebook, including Atlanta, Huntsville, Alabama; Louisville, Kentucky, and Ocala, Florida. The Facebook postings urge those attending rallies to open carry guns where local laws allow; Michigan permits open carry.

The Dearborn rally is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Islamic Center of America, 19500 Ford Road. A Facebook page for the event references Louis Farrakhan, whose Nation of Islam plans a rally Saturday in Washington, D.C., to mark the 20th anniversary of the “Million Man March.”

“As this invasion of Muslim colonization continues unchecked on American soil, we can only expect the same suffering now endured by EUROPE,” reads the Dearborn event notice. “Farrakhan’s hate and promotion of inter-ethnic strife is a wake up call. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to save our Republic. #tentenfifteen #OpenCarry”

Farrakhan has been accused of using anti-Semitic language in speeches and urging violence.

As of Thursday, the Dearborn Police Department said it did not have plans for additional patrols on Saturday. Officers regularly drive by all houses of worship in the city, police said.

Besides the SPLC, which tracks hate groups, representatives of the Center for New Community, a Chicago-based civil rights group, and the American Center for Outreach, a Muslim advocacy group based in Nashville, participated in the conference call.

Kalia Abiade, advocacy director at Center for New Community, said her group has tracked more than 35 demonstrations planned Friday and Saturday.

“All of the events have been advertised on Facebook, but as with most Facebook events it’s difficult to gauge the turnout, but it would be a mistake to dismiss these anti-Muslim protests,” she said.

Abiade said mosques and Muslim leaders should communicate with local police agencies to ensure safety during the rallies.

“We encourage local groups to keep a line of communication open with local law enforcement in order to coordinate additional support,” she said. “Local Muslim groups have put out safety tips within the community in order to keep everyone safe. When people know ahead of time, they can prepare.”

Participants in the conference call did not name specific candidates, but in the past month two Republican contenders have stirred controversy regarding Muslims.

Ben Carson, a Republican contender and Detroit native, said last month that a Muslim should not serve as president, and Donald Trump declined to contest a town hall participant who described President Barack Obama as a Muslim and called Muslims a problem in the U.S.

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Detroit News Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.