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Anti-Muslim protests span US: How mosques are responding

Anti-Muslim protesters – some armed – plan to gather in front of mosques and Muslim community centers across the country. 

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    Protesters gather outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix, Friday, May 29, 2015. Phoenix is one of several cities singled out for protests in the so-called Global Rally for Humanity this weekend.
    Rick Scuteri/AP/File
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Muslim leaders of mosques in more than 30 cities nationwide are preparing for anti-Muslim marches planned for today.

A Facebook group called Global Rally for Humanity has put out a call for anti-Muslim demonstrations "in every country at every Mosque." One spin-off group, organizing a rally in Dearborn, Mich., encouraged demonstrators to show up armed, noting that Michigan is "an open carry state." 

Earlier this week, the Council for Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group, released a statement urging Muslim leaders around the country to take extra precautions ahead of the planned demonstrations.

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"Many of these planned rallies may not take place, or they may consist of only a handful of people shouting slurs at worshipers," the statement read. "But given the recent endorsement of Islamophobia by national public figures, it would only be prudent for mosque and community leaders to prepare for any eventuality."

Preparing for such events can present both emotional and logistical challenges, CAIR executive director Ibrahim Hooper told the International Business Times

"We don't know if it's just bluster or something serious," he said. "Our position is generally not to give attention to people seeking cheap publicity. But there's been enough violent rhetoric around this event that we just felt it prudent to alert the community about what actions they can take to make sure everyone is safe and secure." 

It is not clear how many protesters these rallies will draw. In Dearborn, rally organizers were not able to get permits to rally in front of the mosque and now plan to rally near city hall, according to USA Today. 

"The best way for the average person in our community to handle these incidents is to ignore them," Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly wrote Friday on the city's website. "The demonstration is not really a forum for honest dialogue, and anything that intensifies emotions will only intensify conflict."

In response to the planned anti-Muslim rallies, CAIR launched a year-long nationwide voter registration campaign designed to help push back against the anti-Muslim sentiments.

"In registering voters, American Muslim organizations nationwide are challenging Islamophobia with community organizing, coalition building and civic empowerment," said Robert McCaw, the government affairs manager for CAIR.

"In the face of hatred, the Muslim community will respond by asserting its rights as American citizens and voters," he said.

In recent weeks, Republican presidential candidates have added their own anti-Islam rhetoric to the public discourse. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson came under fire for saying he didn't believe a Muslim would be fit to serve as President. Weeks before, front-runner Donald Trump was criticized for refusing to correct a questioner who said President Obama was Muslim and "not even an American."

This weekend's protests are far from the first round of violent demonstrations at Muslim religious and cultural facilities. In May, armed protesters surrounded a mosque in Phoenix.

People and groups on social media have largely condemned the planned protests.

In addition, the United Church of Christ issued a call on Friday for local congregations to show support and solidarity with Muslims across the country this weekend.

"I want to say as clearly as I can, and in no uncertain terms, that the United Church of Christ stands in full solidarity with people of the Muslim faith," wrote the Rev. John C. Dorhauer, president of the UCC. "Their contribution to religion, to peace, to humanity, and to the goodness of all is to be celebrated. The United Church of Christ deplores the narrow-mindedness that fails to see this and seeks instead to engender fear, hatred, and anxiety."

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