Mosques across the country are taking increased safety measures in response to a series of anti-Muslim rallies planned nationwide for Oct 9 and 10.
The Council for Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group, is urging Muslim leaders around the country to be vigilant this weekend and take extra precautions to ensure community members' safety.
"We've known about this for about a month now," Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's communications director, said. "A lot of the times with stuff like this, we don't know if it's just bluster or something serious. 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."
The rallies stem from a Facebook page called "Global Rally For Humanity," which urges "patriots" to find mosques in their cities to set up protests. "Humanity is attacked daily by radical Islam," the page reads. "Protests will be held in every country at every mosque."
According to Imagine2050, at least 20 rallies are planned across the country for Oct. 9 and 10, and some organizers have indicated that in states with open-carry laws, protesters will be armed. One organizer in Maryland said that he planned to desecrate Qurans at an event.
Jon Ritzheimer, a former Marine who organized an anti-Islam rally in Phoenix this year, has created a Facebook page to host another one this Saturday at the Islamic Community Center Of Phoenix. According to its Facebook page, 84 people have committed to attending, with another 34 saying they "might" attend. It is unclear whether there will be a police presence at the event.
Hooper said that at a time when hate-motivated crimes against Muslims are increasing and certain national public figures have issued statements CAIR deems to be Islamophobic, "it would only be prudent for mosque and community leaders to prepare for any eventuality."
As a result, CAIR is urging community leaders to contact local law enforcement for advice on how to prepare for such rallies, ask local interfaith partners to attend to show support, request local elected and public officials to condemn such events, and try to videotape the rallies if safely possible.
Hooper said many local mosques have heeded CAIR's advice. Community leaders in Oklahoma have met with their local police departments to seek advice, while in Maryland, CAIR is working with local mosques to reach out to the community. Law enforcement officials contacted for this article were not immediately available to comment.
While some of the rallies might not actually take place, or draw only a few people, Hooper said it's important for Muslim communities to be prepared and remain vigilant.
One rally scheduled to be held in Racine, Wisconsin, has already been canceled after local newspaper Racine County Eye published an article about the event, whose Facebook page encouraged people to bring weapons because Wisconsin is an open-carry state. Local residents left outraged comments on the publication's Facebook page expressing their disapproval over the rally.
"Unbelievable! And people wonder why we have mass shootings. Stop teaching hate!” one reader wrote.