It’s Not About Helping Girls, It’s Just About Hate

As we prepare to respond to the hate rallies this weekend being orchestrated by ACT for America, an organization labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, I was taken aback by the criticism that our group, who is organizing a “Wash Away the Hate” event in response, received. In speaking with one of my co-organizers, Phoebe Hopps, Chair and Lead Organizer of Women’s March Michigan, she relayed that we had been chastised by the organizers of ACT for America for not “coming to the table” to help address the women’s issues they purport to care about: ending female genital mutilation (FGM)and child marriage. One only need look at the Lansing event page for the “Rally Against Sharia” to see that this is what they claim is their charge. And we’re supposed to believe that this is not about hating Muslims, but really about protecting young girls. Well, to quote the former Vice President Biden, that’s malarkey!

While the issue of female genital mutilation is sadly poignant right now in Michigan, justice is being carried out as I write this. Those who were caught participating in this barbaric practice, which is already a federal crime, are being tried in federal court right now.

Meanwhile, the Michigan House of Representatives is sharing a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, and has passed new legislation that will extend the statute of limitations for bringing charges against anyone who perpetrates female genital mutilation, increased sentencing and fines for not only participating, but transporting a minor for this sexual assault.

So, clearly, the horrific practice of FGM is being actively addressed at both the state and federal level, especially in Michigan. It should be noted that the group that is currently being prosecuted for female genital mutilation are followers of a small sect of Islam, and that FGM not a standard practice for American Muslims. FGM has no religious mandate anywhere in the Islamic faith, and is a cultural practice based in the Middle East, Africa and India, found in multiple faith practices, including Christianity. FGM is not religion specific, but a cultural and regional practice.

However, this “concern” about protecting young girls is being used to spew hatred towards all Muslims in America. So coming back to why we don’t “come to the table to address female genital mutilation with hate groups?” Because they don’t really care about FGM, they just want to convince people to hate Muslims, and we’ll never dignify those attempts with any kind of meeting.

But what about the scourge of child marriage in America that ACT for America is trying to address? Well, that is a very large problem. There is a radicalized, extremist religious group in America that is force-ably marrying girls as young as 10 and 11 to their adult male rapists, forcing them to bear children before they graduate elementary school. This dangerous religious group should absolutely be stopped from selling 4th and 5th grade girls into sex slaves to adult male rapists! We should be doing everything in our power to put an end to the child marriage practices that are totally legal here in America in 2017. But this practice is not coming from Muslim communities, it’s coming from Pentecostal Christian communities. It’s being aided and abetted by the fundamentalist Christians who hold office all over America, who have the power to make child rape and child marriage stop right here in America, but choose not to do so, because the shame of “unwed motherhood” to those elected officials is much worse than this decimation of childhood innocence.

So, again, why aren’t we, the women organizing Michigan, eager to pull up a chair at the “End FGM and Child Marriage” table? Because it’s never been about either of these issues. It’s only ever been about pushing an agenda of hatred directed at the followers of an entire religion. Regardless of the facts that FGM is already illegal, already being addressed, and is a horrible practice that is not part of the Islamic faith, and has victims of multiple faith practices, ACT for America has decided to blame the Islamic faith, and all who follow it, for female genital mutilation. Regardless of the fact that child marriage is a huge, disgusting problem in America, and that it’s being perpetrated by Christians, not Muslims in America, and is NOT being addressed at the state or federal levels, ACT for America has decided to blame the Islamic faith, and all who follow it, for child marriage in America.

Why won’t we come to the table to talk about ending these practices? Because, while we may actually care about helping and protecting young girls in America, ACT for America couldn’t care less, and will use whatever fear mongering issues they can think of to sew hatred and violence to a group of Americans based on their religion. Violating the First Amendment’s protections of Freedom of Religion is extremely un-American. So, ACT for America will descend on Lansing on June 10 to shout their vile hate speech into the wind, and we won’t stop them. The First Amendment protects free speech, and while I may disagree with what you say, I will defend your right to say it. However, we also have a right to reject your hate speech, and your attempts to turn some Michigander’s fears about FGM and child marriage into misguided fear of the followers of an entire religion, and will wash away your hate.

So, why won’t we sit down with you, and work together to end atrocities against girls? Because we don’t need your hate to make these girls safe. Your hate, your refusal to look for real solutions to these very real problems and your willingness to use them as bait for your campaigns of hate speech will never make these girls safe. So we are not interested in having you at any table we are setting.

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