5 Ways Mosques Can Respond to Anti-Muslim Demonstrations

This Friday and Saturday October 9th and 10th, 2015 the ridiculously named Global Rally for Humanity will take place outside mosques across America. Sadly, the Global Rally for Humanity is not a positive event designed to help uplift vulnerable or oppressed people like refugees; instead it’s a series of protests against Islam and Muslims.

You can learn more about the Global Rally for Humanity here:

One of the more alarming aspects of this event is the likelihood that the protesters will be heavily armed. The people behind these protests are actively encouraging their supporters to show up with assault rifles, guns and other weapons in an “open carry” style.

Insha’Allah, this article will help mosque leadership and attendees prepare for these protests by working with their neighbors, local law enforcement and interacting with the media as needed.

We hope that this guide will also help minimize the negative impact that these protests will likely have on mosque services like Jummah prayers and weekend Islamic schools.

STEP 1 – Prepare your community:

Mosque leaders have a duty to prepare for and inform the general attendance about any potentially dangerous events in a timely manner.

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The first step is to gather as much information about the demonstration and its organizers as soon as possible.

The second step is bringing the local Muslim community’s leaders together to unify and coordinate the community’s response. This meeting should include the mosque’s leadership, advocacy organizations and other leading groups unique to that community.

Next the mosque should review its safety and evacuation plans with its members. The focus should be on helping the attendees understand exactly how to safely enter and exit the facility during the event while the protesters are present.

(NOTE: These plans may have to be modified and should be reviewed by law enforcement. See step 2)

Mosques should have clearly identified and well known communication channels including in-person announcements from known mosque leaders, the mosque’s website and its official social media accounts.

If possible the mosque should address the situation with the congregation well before the protest actually happens. Also, any services, programming, lectures or khutbahs taking place during the protest should be shortened so that congregation can be reminded of the mosque’s safety and evacuation plans.

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The last step is to guide and empower the congregation in how they respond. Attendees should be instructed to avoid any direct engagement or confrontation with the protesters during the event.

Members of the congregation can and should help document the protesters, their messages and any abuse or damage that may be responsible for. They can do this by taking photos and video recording of the protest on their electronic devices as they enter and leave the mosque.

Again it is best to avoid direct interaction with protesters when possible. This will help the community maintain the moral high ground because they will be behaving in a dignified manner.

(NOTE: This can be very challenging as protesters are becoming more and more emboldened and inflammatory. Recently, protesters at other anti-Muslim events have destroyed Qur’ans, used offensive language and imagery, dressed up as and/or created effigies of “terrorists” and mocked Prophet Muhammad. They employ all these tactics to illicit a confrontation with mosque attendees in an attempt to further smear Islam and Muslims.)

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STEP 2 – Contact law enforcement:

Notify your local law enforcement agencies as soon as you are aware of the situation. Give them any information you can about the protest.

INCLUDE: The event’s name, the organizers’ names, and related websites. Include any history your institution has with the organizers. Document and share any concerning comments, letters and hate messages from the organizers or found on the event’s websites and social media.

Have a designated emergency contact person who will lead all communication with law enforcement. Make sure that law enforcement knows who the emergency contact person is as well as who the other members of your leadership team are.

Provide law enforcement with a schedule of your congregational prayers, classes, meetings and any other times when you expect peeks in attendance. Do this for the day before, the day of and the day after the protest.

Report any threats, violent incidents, hateful comments (letters, emails, voicemail and social media posts) vandalism and/or suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.

Ask that your local law enforcement agency increase patrols in the area. Their visible presence in the days before the event will help set a peaceful tone and will reassure your congregation. Specifically request an increased visible presence the day before the protest and of course an adequate presence during the event.

Lastly, make sure that law enforcement know your property lines and who your neighbors are. Also ask that they consider any potential safety concerns regarding the roads and routes used to access the masjid property.

STEP 3 – Talk to your neighbors:

Contact all your neighbors who might be affected by the influx of protesters. Let them know about the demonstration and its potential impact on them. Inform them that you are working with law enforcement to ensure everyone’s safety. Ask your neighbors if they have any ideas or concerns about dealing with the demonstration.

Reach out to your social justice and interfaith partners. Develop and circulate a sign-on statement of values that emphasis how it is wrong to target entire ethnic or religious groups. Ask people of good will to come to the mosque and stand in solidarity with the community during the protest.

Consider offering refreshments to the protesters. If it’s hot outside offer them cold bottles of water. If it is cold have coffee and donuts. Stick to refreshments from major and well known name brands. Make sure you set up any refreshments near the protesting group and have signs with positive messages on them. Let the protesters know that the refreshments are free and provided by the Muslim community.

STEP 4 – Work with the media:

Prior to the event, document everything reported in the news about the demonstration. Based on this documentation decide if the situation requires that your team issues a pre-event statement.

Gather Mosque leadership, media relations experts and advocacy organizations for a meeting to review the community’s talking points and message strategy for this specific event.

Remind community members, the mosques’ staff and volunteers to refer all requests for comment to the designated spokesperson or media relations team.

Talking points should be crafted to maintain the moral high ground:

  • Articulate your message without making disparaging comments about the demonstration or its organizers.
  • Talking points should focus on the impact that the event will have on community with a special focus on women and children.
  • Emphasize the positive things taking place inside the mosque rather than the demonstration outside.
  • Consider including the mosque’s history like how long its been a member of the larger community.
  • Highlight any signature service programs that the community does regularly.
  • Make sure your interfaith allies and non-Muslim supporters have the opportunity to speak to the media.
  • Make sure you thank and express your confidence in your neighbors.
  • Conclude your remarks by inviting people to visit and get to know their local Muslim community.
  • Fact check all talking points for accuracy.

STEP 5 – Compile a post event report:

Ask what was done correctly and what could have been done better.

Analyze logistical issues including; how safe the traffic routes where, the location of the protesters any impact that had, law enforcement overall performance, the media coverage and how well your response team functioned.

Gather statistics on how many protesters showed up, how many counter protesters were there, how many community members attended the mosque and compared that to how many people would have normally attended the mosque if there wasn’t a protest.

Create a list of people who made outstanding efforts. Publicly acknowledge your team with thank you letters and/or awards. Focus your congregation’s afternoon on your interfaith allies support, law enforcement’s good work and the efforts of influential community members and volunteers.

Conclude your report with analysis of any defining moments during the protest. Use this report to refine and improve the mosque’s safety measures for the future.

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14 responses to “5 Ways Mosques Can Respond to Anti-Muslim Demonstrations”

  1. Amel says:

    Excellent advice…however, it is really a shame that such an article has to be written in the first place. I wonder how Americans would react to groups of armed Muslims making their own protests at places of worship. I don’t see how this can be acceptable in any society that considers itself modern and enlightened.

  2. Syeda Zainab says:

    Thanks for this timely article Mr. Galloway! Proactive measures are always better than reactive. The ongoing Islamophobia in America has become a real issue and must be addressed. Community and individual action is needed on a national level. There’s an upcoming conference for this purpose. Interested persons should check out
    TMOAmerica.org

  3. Khalil Ebb says:

    Jazaka Allah Khair. This is a great guide for masjid staff and others who may be new to organizing and activism. I’d add, though, that we need a political primer could also be useful when preparing for these events. Given the political nature of these events, they require a political response.

    Given that these racist protests are a part of the rising white populist rhetoric and violence masaajid should be hosting programs to understand this. Given the historical importance of the Black struggle in combating white supremacy, masaajid could screen movies such as PBS’s “Eyes on the Prize” documentary or “The Black Power Mix Tape.” They could also host presentations by Black Lives Matter organizers, and possibly fund raise for their work. Or they could host book clubs/discussions. I’d recommend Good Muslim, Bad Muslim by M Mamdani, or W Sales’ From Civil Rights to Black Liberation.

    Further, the press talking points should include a political perspective. Here are a few suggestions:
    > These racist protests are a result of US foreign policy’s continued support for Israeli apartheid, and the indiscriminate bombing of Muslims across the world. The bombing of the hospital in Afghanistan earlier this week is one example. In both the media and in US foreign policy, Muslim lives are considered cheap and worthless.
    > These protests are modern day lynch mobs. They are part of the same atmosphere being created by the rhetoric of Donald Trump, and the systematic racist murder of Black people in this country by both police and vigilantes.
    > We want to encourage Muslims to act in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the struggle by undocumented immigrants to be recognized and treated as human.
    > [following Amel’s point above] If Muslims organized outside churches or Synagogues, and suggested that people bring arms we would be called terrorists. This is a racist double standard.

  4. Ahsan says:

    Salam!
    Agree with everything.
    I advise banners within the mosque property that can be seen from the road/public space so that passers-by can see them.
    Their content should contain positive messages common to both the sayings of Esa a.s. (Jesus Christ) from the four canonical gospels and the Quran+Prophet Muhammad.
    That should illuminate to the general public how we’re not some pariah religion as being portrayed by misinformed quarters.
    W.salam.

  5. […] measures during the so-called “Global Rally for Humanity” events. Muslim leaders are advising the community to take the “moral high ground” and avoid direct confrontation with […]

  6. Hue says:

    We should be ready for possible hater rallies in general. However, we have been publicizing this hater group of humanity better than they have.

  7. […] measures during the so-called “Global Rally for Humanity” events. Muslim leaders are advising the community to take the “moral high ground” and avoid direct confrontation with […]

  8. Shahid, PhD; Houston says:

    As a Muslims, we should welcome these rallies of humanity. We should support these activities initiated by our opponents. It is God’s sent opportunity to talk to our neighbors, coworkers and people we know about the commons in all religions about human society needs, love of each other, concerns of everybody needs, pain and sufferings of our children, mothers, fathers, elders and all those whose human needs that are defined by their religions. I will never forget my neighbors Mr and Mrs Switzers who knocked at my door the morning of weekend after 9/11 and assured us to protect my family in need of any mishap created by any hate monger in front of your home, even they offered to buy groceries for us. Other neighbors did the same. That’s the showing of humanity.
    Humane needs and attitudes are not ingrained in you at your birth but taught and learned through parents, families, neighbors and finally through religious teachers if they don’t inculcate hate mongering ideas in societies of their own desires. In a multicultural environment, your spiritual/worldly education along your surroundings play a vital role to mould/build your human character as you interact with different people of varied thoughts to learn a common goal oriented future for humanity as a whole. This I learnt in Pakistan growing in a poor family and polished by my fellow Americans around me for the last 33 years. I am a proud Muslim American and love humanity at large just like those who wants to demonstrate in front me over and over again to teach me more that I don’t know. Thanks a lot to reminding me that I did’t learn earlier. Let’s learn and teach each other that we don’t know today.

  9. […] measures during the so-called “Global Rally for Humanity” events. Muslim leaders are advising the community to take the “moral high ground” and avoid direct confrontation with […]

    • Fred says:

      The persecution of minorities is disgusting. Unfortunately it happens everywhere almost like xenophobia. Muslims ARE victims in “The Christian West” of abuse, spitting, destruction of mosques etc etc – this is terrible. But what about the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries? Hardly a day goes by without news about persecution in Pakistan involving murder and now in Brunei, Christians cannot openly celebrate Christmas. I think Muslims here in the West have an easier time. Comparisons are odious but….What do you think?

  10. Aafia says:

    Masha Allah,Excellent advice.

    Islamophobia is not only about ignorance and fear. Some people purposefully nurture it and use it as a political strategy. Tariq Ramadan recommended a book,The Islamophobia Industry: How the Right Manufactures Fear of Muslims.If anyone would like to read about this book,here it is:http://islamhashtag.com/islamophobia-in-america/

    • francis Ayala says:

      Gee. I never heard anything about incidents at that rally. But, I sure heard a lot about Paris, a month later. Do you think there might be a basis for Islamophobia?
      Someone has said recently that Islamophobia has become a rational fear that one should take precautions with, like buckling your safety belt before getting into your car. This is because of the writings directly from the Quran that Isis, Taliban, Boko Harem, Wahhabi’s, etc.. love to follow.
      Try to understand that a few Muslims being called names, some spray graffiti on Mosques, an unflattering cartoon of the prophet is a whole different thing than explosives being tossed at your children because they are white and Christian, or other non Muslim.
      There are many accounts now of various cultures murdered by Muslims. It’s Muslims blowing up beautiful Buddhist relics, and causing hell on earth for so many people. This isn’t the fault of the common Muslim, but do you know how self centered your complaining sounds? The truth is, most people don’t care about other people’s religion in the West–We have every kind of religion here. You brought that paranoia from your culture, where a particular belief system is a big issue, and projected it on to Westerners. Believe me, no one here has thought of the word, “Crusader” since they existed long ago. Everyone was surprised to hear the word when Muslims began saying it on the news–Apparently, the Quran has kept the word and the history alive. Not good. And we here we stand scratching our heads, and wondering why it appears in this modern age? We had moved on from the subject centuries ago.

      • Z. Adams says:

        Interesting. It’s always easier for aggressors to “move on” from an incident. But what really needs to be focussed on here is not what the mainstream is discussing. What are the facts, all the victims you mentioned of ISIS are Muslims. If Isis really were Muslims, why would they primarily targets Muslims while destroying the name of Islam in the process? Who are the main victims of Isis and Al Qaseeda? Muslims. All of the victims of Boko Haram in Africa? Muslims. This shows that there is more than meets the eye. 90% of so called “Islamic extremism” victimized Muslims, the Muslim world, and the Muslim religion. What we need to start trying to find out is: WHO BENEFITS???

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