A group of conservative activists made death threats against Kernersville Muslims on Thursday, February 16, during a meeting to stop the “Islamization of America,” prompting condemnation from Muslim advocate groups.
The meeting consisted of 20 people at Captain Tom’s Seafood, one of which belonged to a right-wing anti-Muslim group, American Congress for Truth (ACT) for America.
The group was allegedly meeting to discuss a “Muslim plot to conquer the United States,” which incited hateful comments from attendees, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stated in a press release.
Triad City Beat included the entire meeting audio in their online article about the incident.
“My only recommendation is to start killing the hell out them,” Winston-Salem native Frank del Valle, according to CAIR and as quoted by Journal Now. “I’m ready to start taking people out. Shed some blood, too.”
Participants also indicated belief that upper levels of US government had been “infiltrated” by Islamic radicals, and advocated drastic action to counter.
“I am beyond [peaceful action],” del Valle said. “I’m ready to start taking people out.”
“It must be emotionally painful to be that paranoid about a non-existent, made up threat,” Winston-Salem Community Mosque Imam Khalid Griggs said in a Facebook post. “I shudder at the thought of my grandchildren potentially growing up in a hate-filled, xenophobic environment in 21st century America.”
CAIR also called on the FBI to investigate the threats, along with state and local authorities.
“Calls to violence against members of any minority group warrant a criminal investigation by state law enforcement authorities and the FBI,” CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said in a press release. “We call on President Trump to repudiate the growing bigotry in our nation targeting Muslims, Hispanics, immigrants, refugees, and other minority groups.”
Hooper also opined that the death threats were emboldened by Trump, with such attitudes being normalized by President Trump’s rhetoric and his cabinet members.
“We believe [the incident] is a symptom of growing islamophobia in America, encouraged by Donald Trump,” Hooper commented.
ACT for America describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots national security organization… focused on educating, engaging, and mobilizing citizens and elected officials to impact legislative outcomes to protect America.”
ACT for America have the stated aim of protecting against terrorism in America, but have been criticized for promoting anti-Muslim beliefs and rhetoric.
ACT for America is classed as an anti-Muslim extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC notes it as the largest grassroots anti-Muslim organization in America currently.
The SPLC has stated that the number of anti-Muslim groups has tripled during 2015-2016.
UNCG senior Peace & Conflict Studies and Social Work major Lena Ragab expressed distress and sadness at the threats. Despite a growing incidence of hate speech at large, Ragab – who is also a member of the UNCG Muslim Student Association (MSA) says that she feels safe on UNCG campus.
“I don’t think [Islamaphobia] is really common on campus,” said UNCG senior Lena Ragab, “and I feel safer on campus than I do outside… I’ve never experienced [Islamaphobia] on campus.”
Ragab described an incident in Washington DC where a woman in line at a Starbucks referred to her as a “terrorist.”
“I was kinda shocked, but not really,” Ragab said. “Nobody said anything about it, they just stared. I basically had to fend for myself at that point, and I felt really sad, because I don’t feel like people really defend Muslims in those situations, and they often feel alone.”
Ragab also spoke on how the MSA is reaching out in a more hostile political climate.
“The Muslim Student Association has really been trying to bridge the gap between people who may not know about Muslims,” Ragab said, “and I’ve been trying to create open dialogues for Muslims to have an outlet if they feel unsafe or if anything has happened on campus… I’m also trying to organize open dialogue with other faiths, and maybe raise awareness.”
“To diminish [islamaophobia] you really need to sit down and speak,” UNCG student Musab Akbay said. “It’s as simple as that… At the end of the day, you need to understand that we’re not here to take anything away. In fact, we’re here to enrich, to show that… God’s creation is vast, and it’s colorful.”
“If were to tell [members of the meeting] anything, it would be that we’re not here to take anything,” Akbay said. “We’re here to contribute, to enrich the American social fabric, to communicate as much as possible.”
Ragab also urged witnesses to racist actions to speak up or intervene, to break the bystander effect.
“Don’t be a bystander!” Ragab said. “Stand up for them. If it’s very obvious that someone’s being assaulted or bullied… interfere and try to stick up for them.”
The FBI is currently investigating the threats, according to WRAL. It will find the meeting participants and find out the severity of the threat posed from their statements.