Roughly a dozen armed anti-Muslim protesters held a rally at a mosque in Irving, Texas over the weekend, raising tensions in the former town of Ahmed Mohamed, the ninth-grader who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school.
The protesters, calling themselves the Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR), were armed with everything from hunting rifles to an AR-15 as they gathered outside the Islamic Center of Irving on Saturday. They also carried signs that read “Stop the Islamization of America” and “The solution to Islamic terrorism” with arrows pointing to armed protesters, according to local media reports.
“We are here protesting Syrian refugees coming to America, protesting the Islamization of America,” David Wright, a BAIR spokesman, told a local Fox News affiliate. “I think the popular belief is people are scared. They’re scared to say anything about it. They’re scared to come out to a place like this and stand in front of a mosque and protest Islam.”
“They’re mostly for self-defence or protection,” Wright told The Dallas Morning News, referring to his 12-gauge shotgun. “But I’m not going to lie. We do want to show force. … It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.”
Wright cited the Paris attacks and rumors of Syrian refugees coming to Texas as reasons for the protest.
The town of Irving was thrust into the international spotlight earlier this year when police arrested Mohamed, a fourteen-year-old Muslim student who brought a homemade clock to school, and accused him of constructing a bomb. Mohamed’s family has since announced that they will move to Qatar.
The Islamic Center of Irving said in a Facebook post police had warned them of the armed protests ahead of time.
“As mentioned, they will be armed and may also carry signs, the nature of which are unknown at this time,” the group wrote. “The ICI administration has asked that the community first and foremost remain calm through the entire event, and NOT TO ENGAGE THE PROTESTERS AT ALL.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been tracking a sharp spike in anti-Muslim rhetoric and direct threats against Muslims in the U.S. since the recent Paris terror attacks. In Canada, there have also been several anti-Muslim incidents including an Ontario mosque that was torched, a Muslim woman was attacked near an elementary school in Toronto and a Montreal man was arrested for posting a video threatening to kill one Arab per week.
Alia Salem, executive director of CAIR’s Dallas-Fort Worth chapter, said ‘open-carry’ protests have become commonplace across Texas.
“It’s really scary and it’s really intimidating,” Salem told Global News. “What really disturbs us is that there is no attempt to understand… all they want to do is have some sort of revenge.”
Salem noted that the Islamic Center of Irving also operates as a school for children.
“To have that kind of brazen hostility especially towards women and children and regular everyday people, it boggles my mind that people are acting like this.”