VIRGINIA – As Americans remain shocked of the recent neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, Virginia, members of the Muslim community were among the early responders, participating in interfaith vigils and promoting a message of unity.
“Hate is hate,” said David Ramadan, a former Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates.
“In the white supremacist mind there is no difference between an Arab and a Jew, between a Muslim and a black man, between an Asian and a Latino,” Ramadan, who has Lebanese roots, told The National.
Last Saturday, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members clashed with protesters at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The fringe groups gathered to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
During the rally, a car plowed into the crowd, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 19 others. James Alex Fields Jr., 20, the alleged driver of the vehicle, has been charged with second-degree murder, hit and run, and three counts of malicious wounding.
The events shocked the American community, as Trump declined from calling white supremacist attacks as terrorism.
Former KKK leader and white supremacist David Duke thanked the president on Twitter for his “honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists”.
Since the tragic events, US Muslims have been a key part in interfaith vigils in Alabama, Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, California, to condemn white supremacist and neo-Nazi rhetoric.
Muslims also joined hands with Jewish, Christian and humanitarian groups in holding vigils and promoting a message of unity.
For many of them, the terror in Charlottesville is parallel to the rise in hate crimes targeting the 3.3 million Muslims in the United States.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, there was a 67 per cent spike in hate crimes against Muslims in 2015, bringing the number of attacks to 257, up from the annual average of 100-150 between 2001 and 2014.
One week before the Charlottesville events, a bomb exploded at the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Centre in suburban Minneapolis. The governor of the state, Mark Dayton, called the mosque attack an “act of terrorism” as the FBI launched an investigation.
In May, Jeremy Joseph Christian — known for his right wing extremist and white supremacist views — fatally stabbed two passengers in Portland, Oregon on a train who were trying to stop him from harassing two young Muslim women.
Not far from Charlottesville in northern Virginia, Rizwan Jaka of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (Adams) said his group has attended several vigils since Saturday’s clashes.
“We denounce all manifestations of white nationalist/supremacist hatred and bigotry, in the same way that we have denounced similar actions in past years, by those who falsely claim to be acting in the name of Islam or other religions,” Mr Jaka said.
Trump’s late condemnation of white supremacists on Monday, followed by assigning blame to both sides on Tuesday, struck a nerve with those protesting white supremacists.
“This great nation cannot go back to Nazism for God’s sake,” said Ramadan.
“These people drove from far places to come to Charlottesville because they are feeling emboldened … if they didn’t feel they have sympathizers in the White House, such as [Trump’s chief strategist] Steve Bannon they wouldn’t have made such a long journey,” he said.