Demonstrators gathered in at least 28 cities across the US for anti-Sharia law marches on Saturday.
March Against Sharia rallies are organized by ACT for America, an organization that says it is focused on fighting terrorism and promoting national security.
This year’s rallies are expected to be the group’s largest protest against Islam and took place in cities including Phoenix, Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, New York, Boston and Seattle.
But many of the marches saw even larger counter-rallies.
Activists in support of the Muslim community argue with demonstrators rallying for the ‘March Against Sharia’ in New York City
ACT for America has become an increasingly vocal anti-Muslim activist group, and has organized protests across the United States. This protester, left, and counter-protester, right, demonstrated in New York
Demonstrators gathered in at least 28 cities across the US for ACT for America’s March Against Sharia Saturday. These demonstrators are pictures in New York City
Counter demonstrators opposing a group who gathered nearby to protest against Islamic-law yell out on Saturday in New York
Those participating in the March Against Sharia protested against elements of Sharia law that ACT for America believes are increasingly showing up in American society. These protesters rallied in New York City’s Foley Square
Hundreds marched through downtown Seattle, banging drums, cymbals and cowbells behind a large sign saying ‘Seattle stands with our Muslim neighbors’.
Participants chanted ‘No hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here’ on their way to City Hall, while a phalanx of bicycle police officers separated them from an anti-Shariah rally numbering in the dozens.
Local activists even set up an ‘Ask an American Muslim’ booth where attendees could meet and learn about their Muslim neighbors.
In front of the Trump building in downtown Chicago, about 30 people demonstrated against Islamic law and in favor of President Donald Trump, shouting slogans and holding signs that read ‘Ban Sharia’ and ‘Sharia abuses women’.
About twice as many counter-protesters marshaled across the street.
People march and shout slogans in support of Muslim community as activists take part in the March Against Sharia in New York City
NYPD officers patrol during the March Against Sharia at Foley Square on Saturday
People hold up signs during a rally to support Muslims rights as a counter protest, left, to the March Against Sharia, where some people also came out in support of President Donald Trump in New York
An activist who took part in the March Against Sharia is attended by NYPD officer as he suffers a medical emergency during the rally on Saturday
NYPD officers help an activist who was part of the March Against Sharia Saturday as he suffered a medical emergency
Writer Gavin McInnes, left, speaks to activists as they take part in the anti-Shariah rally in New York City
Counter-protesters sounded air-horns and banged pots and pans in an effort to silence an anti-Shariah rally with about 100 protesters in New York City Saturday
A similar scene played out in a park near a New York courthouse, where counter-protesters sounded air-horns and banged pots and pans in an effort to silence an anti-Shariah rally with about 100 protesters.
‘The theme of today is drowning out racism,’ said counter-protester Tony Murphy, standing next to demonstrators with colorful earplugs.
‘The more racists get a platform, the more people get attacked.’
The groups verbally clashed with police officers standing between them.
The marches were held in 18 states and are ‘against Sharia law and for human rights’, according to the ACT for America website.
But the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated ACT for America as an extremist, anti-Muslim hate group.
Counter-protesters hold signs outside of an anti-Sharia rally in Seattle, Washington
Hundreds marched through downtown Seattle, banging drums, cymbals and cowbells behind a large sign saying ‘Seattle stands with our Muslim neighbors’
An attendee wears a hijab and a pro-Trump cap during an anti-Sharia rally in Seattle
Participants chanted ‘No hate, no fear, Muslims are welcome here’ on their way to City Hall in Seattle, while a phalanx of bicycle police officers separated them from an anti-Shariah rally numbering in the dozens
ACT for America says it condemns bias against religious groups and is ‘proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with peaceful Western Muslims as well as peaceful Muslims worldwide’.
Yet many Muslims and others say the group promotes a distorted and prejudiced view of Islam.
‘Many aspects of Sharia law run contrary to basic human rights and are completely incompatible with our laws and our democratic values,’ the ACT for America website says.
Their activists portray Shariah as largely incompatible with American democracy and often warn of a stealth effort to replace US law with Islamic law.
Muslims call the claims ludicrous and say Islamic law plays a role similar to Jewish law, as a guide to religious life rooted in the Quran and scholars say there’s little to no threat to US democracy from Islamic law.
ACT for America says it condemns bias against religious groups and is ‘proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with peaceful Western Muslims as well as peaceful Muslims worldwide’, however the SPLC has said the group is an anti-Muslim extremist hate group. Counter-protesters are pictures in Seattle
The March Against Sharia rallies come amid a rise in reports of anti-Muslim incidents in the US, including arson attacks and vandalism at mosques, harassment of women wearing Muslim head coverings and bullying of Muslim schoolchildren. Counter-protesters are pictures in Seattle
Local activists even set up an ‘Ask an American Muslim’ booth where attendees could meet and learn about their Muslim neighbors
Counter-protester Aneelah Azfali, left, of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS) discusses Islam with protesters Allen Crouser, center, and Mary Crouser, right, who came to attend the March Against Sharia in Seattle
‘I don’t believe Islam can peacefully co-exist with the Constitution,’ said Seattle anti-Shariah demonstrator Aaron Bassford, 29.
‘I’m not going to tell them they can come here and take away my Second Amendment right. We need unity in this country under no ideology and no banner except the Constitution of the United States of America.’
But the overwhelming majority of Muslims don’t want to replace US law with Islamic law, known as Shariah, and only ‘radical extremist groups’ would call for that, said Liyakat Takim, a professor of Islamic studies at McMaster University in the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario.
Shariah, Takim said, refers to guidelines or principles – how Muslims should live.
‘Fiqh’ refers to jurisprudence, or specific laws. The values embedded in Shariah do not change and are shared among Muslims, he said, while fiqh is open to interpretation and change, and in fact differs among Islamic sects and communities.
‘The Quran allows slavery, so does the Old Testament. That doesn’t mean we allow it today, too,’ Takim said. ‘Laws are amenable to change.’
The marches come amid a rise in reports of anti-Muslim incidents in the US, including arson attacks and vandalism at mosques, harassment of women wearing Muslim head coverings and bullying of Muslim schoolchildren.
In St Paul, Minnesota, the demonstrations were mostly peaceful until some people leaving a rally inside the Capitol encountered counter-protesters outside.
A confrontation that included shoving and punching occurred, The Star Tribune reported.
The Minnesota State Patrol separated the groups and appeared to make at least one arrest.
A pro-Muslim supporter, left, argues with a demonstrator with the March Against Sharia protest in Chicago, Illinois, on Saturday
A pro-Muslim supporter, right, tries to pull a US flag from ACT for America demonstrators, left, in Chicago
A pro-Muslim supporter chants during a counter-protest outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago
A Chicago Police officer provides security for demonstrators with the ‘March Against Sharia’ protest in Chicago
In California, small but raucous demonstrations were held in a handful of cities, including San Bernardino, where a husband and wife inspired by the Islamic State group killed 14 people and wounded 22 in a 2015 shooting attack.
Clusters of protesters and counter-protesters gathered on four corners of an intersection at a memorial to the slain. Anti-Islamic law demonstrators marched past the building where the shootings occurred.
Denise Zamora, 39, of Upland said the group wasn’t opposed to all Muslims.
‘We’re anti-Shariah. We’re anti-radicals,’ she said.
‘It’s coming in very slowly, and a lot of the refugees are bringing that ideology here,’ Zamora said of Shariah. ‘All of it is just barbaric.’
No arrests were made at the San Bernardino rally, and there were no reports of violence, police spokeswoman Eileen Hards said.
But it was noisy, with groups chanting, yelling and waving American flags and posters proclaiming various causes.
‘There’s an anti-Trump, a pro-Trump, anti-extremists, so there are a variety of messages here,’ Hards said.
‘There are so many messages going on that I’m not sure who’s who.’
A pro-Muslim supporter, left, and an ACT for America demonstratorargue under a statue of former US President George Washington in Chicago
A pro-Muslim supporter takes part in a rally against demonstrators with the ‘March Against Sharia’ protest in Chicago
A demonstrator with the March Against Sharia protest takes part in a rally outside the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago