Anti-Sharia law, anti-hate protests convene peacefully in San Jose

An anti-Sharia law protest met an anti-Muslim hate counter protest in San Jose across Stevens Creek Road on Saturday morning and despite the rhetoric, remained peaceful.

Morgan Jones said he felt compelled to stand along with other anti-Sharia law protesters to support his brother from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. near Santana Row. Sharia law is Islamic law, or a set of principles that define the Muslim faith. The group organizing this march and others across the country, ACT for America, say that Sharia law is "incompatible with Western democracy." But the Southern Poverty Law Center says the group is the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the country.

"My brother is gay. There's no tolerance for that," Jones said of Sharia law. "I don't mind Muslims, I don't understand - are all these Muslims for Sharia law? I don't think so. I don't think I'm the one drawing the line."

Alice Hoagland, whose son, Mark Bingham, died famously on Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, was also there, shouting "No Sharia in the USA! No Sharia in the USA!"

Across the street, however, a much larger demonstration of anti-hate protesters said Jones is contributing to the divide in America and that his anti-Sharia Law message is more about anti-Muslim immigration.

"They're trying to block out Muslim people and that's not okay," said Isabella McDonnell, an elementary student from Washington. "Even for us kids, that's wrong on so many levels."

Anti-Sharia law protesters said they strongly feel Sharia law could come to America.

"This is to bring awareness that Sharia law is creeping into, seeping into our country," said a San Jose protester who gave only her name as Mary. "They come here and they want their laws. They want to put their laws on our books."

Jones agreed. "It seems to me, when Muslims are in a small group, they preach tolerance and everything, but it seems to me when Muslims get in a large group, that they start demanding different things," said Jones, who added he did not personally know Muslims who were committed to Sharia law.

Mary said she read about a domestic violence case in New Jersey that showed her Sharia law is already in America. "In New Jersey there was a judge who let a man off, because he beat his wife."

The New Jersey case is from 2010. A Muslim woman sought a restraining order from her husband, claiming he sexually assaulted and raped her. Judge Joseph Charles ruled against the restraining order, stating the husband behaved according to his religious beliefs and didn't have a criminal desire to hurt his wife.
An appellate court overruled Charles and granted the woman a restraining order. The trial judge's ruling was widely condemned.

"They might actually be afraid, but I think that it's a false fear," said counter protester Minister Liza Klein of United Methodist Church. "They understand American law differently than I do. Right? We're on opposite sides of the street."

Muslims standing with the anti-Muslim hate group said they see a problem in the anti-Sharia law protesters not personally knowing any Muslims.

"I think personal connections are important," said Nadia Anees.

"In our religion, we're told to respect the rules and the laws of the country that we're in," said Tamara Zafer.
"We're not here to take over. We're as American as anyone else. We were born in the United States and we're going to stay."