The Global Rally Has a Right to Speak Too




As I browsed Facebook, the “Global Rally for Humanity,” which boasts nearly 3,200 likes and counting, caught my attention. Printed in bold, red lettering across the top and bottom of the page’s profile and cover photo are the words, “The World is Saying no to Islam, Three percenters and Oath Keepers, United States of America.” The “About” tab on the page reads, “This is a Global Rally For Humanity. Humanity is attacked daily by radical Islam. Protests will be held in every country at every Mosque.” The first visible post on the page leaves clear instructions for those who wish to incite protests in their city. Those interested are to start a city-specific “Global Rally for Humanity” page. From there, one is meant to garner support for the page as they would promote any other: share it, and invite friends to like it. The page is littered with memes condemning Islam and video blogs, wherein supporters of the cause deliver passionate, inflammatory monologues. One such video features Phoenix resident Jon Ritzheimer, the apparent leader of the organization, perched in front of a red pickup truck with an off-brand Confederate flag planted in the back. Ritzheimer stumbles inarticulately through an apparently unrehearsed sermon. In the most striking moment in the video, he proclaims, “This enemy all has one thing in common. They all read from this right here.” He then reaches for a tattered copy of the Qu’ran with one hand, brandishes a silver handgun with the other, and fires a round through the center of the book. Ritzheimer and his organization call for protests at mosques in America and any Muslim institution. Protestors are encouraged to wield firearms as a staunch declaration of their Second Amendment rights. And yet, sadly, we must allow this to occur.

Do not get me wrong: I found this behavior gross, offensive, unnecessarily provocative and dangerously bigoted. If I were a moderate or nominal Muslim living in America, and I saw a mass of gun-toting protesters dressed in military clothing outside my place of worship, I would feel absolutely threatened. These protests are clear acts of provocation. In an article written for The Atlantic, journalist Arsalan Iftikhar rightly describes the group as “nothing more than gun wielding bullies trying to intimidate religious minorities…”. Yet no matter how vitriolic a reaction this incites in me, no matter how stupid and shortsighted I find their hatred of Islam to be, it has to be allowed.

Tempted as I may be to curse the content of Ritzheimer’s character for his aggressive tactics, I can’t let the toxicity of such tactics get the better of my judgement.  In a CNN interview, Ritzheimer distinctly clarifies that he has a problem with the religion of Islam, not all Muslims. But regardless of whether or not it is just a qualification for his apparent hatred, critique of Islam remains perfectly permissible, and there are plenty of public intellectuals and Muslim reformers–Maajid Nawaz, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to name a few–engaging in this critique in a much more intelligent and constructive way.

Iftikhar calls to mind the murder of nine black Americans in an Episcopal Church in Charleston, as well as other recent instances of violence against religious minorities in America.  He said “Again, regardless of whether we are dealing with attacks on black churches, mosques, synagogues or temples, Americans of conscience should send a resounding collective message that an attack on any house of worship is an attack on all houses of worship.”  While surely I agree with Iftikhar that we should not tolerate violence towards any house of worship, I think he rather hastily and shortsightedly conflates these instances of violence.  Jewish Americans, black Americans and Muslim Americans face a host of different threats for a host of different reasons, some racially charged, some religiously.  Iftikhar goes on to say that, “This tragic string of attacks on the houses of worship of religious minorities across America means the minority communities are still not valued as much around society as the white, Christian population.”

Again, this is a dangerous conflation of minority groups and a false dichotomy that ignores the violence these aforementioned groups inflict on each other. Anti-semitic motivated attacks remain the most statistically pervasive in America, and it would be wrong to source the motivation as White Christian Normativity.  As far as this concerns the Global Rally for Humanity protests, I hardly think they warrant much worry.  It has been reported that a number of the city-specific groups were taken down before a protest even took place, and that the protests that do take place boast far fewer supporters than announced on the respective Facebook page.  So maybe if you hear talk of a Global Rally protest in your city, consider assembling a rag-tag gang of liberals to protest the protest, and to send a message to your fellow Americans who are practicing Muslims that the Global Rally for Humanity does not reflect American interests.