VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Dozens of demonstrators gathered Saturday afternoon, protesting what some called “barbaric” Islamic practices.
“We are proud to say that we love our country and that anyone who doesn’t should stay where they are instead of bringing their hateful anti-American ideology to our shores,” said Scott Presler, Lead Activism Strategist with Act for America.
Presler’s words were met with applause at Mount Trashmore, where he spoke out against “Sharia,” defined as Islamic law. He decried practices like female genital mutilation, honor killings and terrorism.
“We’re coming together to protect human rights,” Presler said. “Act for America is not anti Muslim, we are anti radical Islam, big difference.”
On the outskirts of the demonstration, a smaller group stood in protest.
“It’s blatant white nationalism, blatant anti Muslim rhetoric,” one man said.
Police ultimately arrested two members of that group, charging them with assault and disorderly conduct. No injuries were reported.
A speaker with Act for America, a Washington DC-based organization, stated that the crowd included people of all religions, races and sexual orientations. She urged participants to be respectful, stating “we’re all standing in solidarity with those who have suffered under the oppression of Sharia.”
10 On Your Side later met with a local Muslim leader to talk about Sharia. Rachid Khould, Imam with the Crescent Community Center, told 10 On Your Side that the term refers to a Muslim way of life promoting peace.
“There’s a lot of lies out there,” he said. “A lot of misconceptions.”
He stated that the majority of Muslims condemn extremism, and that violent practices associated with Islam are based on inaccurate interpretations.
“They are traditions. They belong to certain things, certain tribes, certain countries, they have nothing to do with the Islamic faith itself,” Khould said. “I talk against any practices like that, they’re coming from the lack of correct knowledge of Islam… you have traditions mixed with what some people think are religion but they are not.”
Khould said he was aware of Saturday’s demonstration but decided not to attend. Instead, at the same time, he said several people prepared meals while fasting at the ODU Islamic Center, later delivering the food to local homeless shelters.
“We let them demonstrate, rally, march, they have the right to do it,” Khould said. “And then we did what we are supposed to be doing.”
Presler stressed that his group stands in support of people who practice Islam peacefully. Saturday’s march in Virginia Beach was one of dozens held across the country.