Hundreds of protesters across the U.S. participated in "Marches against Shariah" on Saturday to express their concerns about the perceived threat of radical Islam in America.
About two dozen "Marches against Shariah" were held on Saturday in U.S. cities, including Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Denver and Seattle.
The demonstrations were organized by ACT (American Congress for Truth) for America, which describes itself as a "grass-roots national security organization," but is considered as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
According to the SPLC, the organization has become the "largest grassroots anti-Muslim group" in the U.S. since its founding 10 years ago, with 1,000 local chapters and a claimed membership of 280,000.
At a rally outside the Islamic Association of North Texas in the suburb of Richardson in Dallas, Texas, a speaker identified as Jim Giles referred to Muslims as "perverted, demonic, sex-crazed ... sick perverts" who "rape their goats."
The protests have been met with counterdemonstrations, and there have been some incidents of scuffles between two sides, Religion News Service reported.
In Richardson, a contingent of police kept the peace by keeping the counterprotesters separated from the anti-Sharia demonstrators, some of whom carried military-style handguns or rifles.
ACT for America, which vows to defend America's founding "western values" and "protect America from terrorism," has steadfastly denied that it is anti-Muslim.
The group, founded in 2007 by Brigitte Gabriel, a Maronite Christian who was born in Lebanon, has maintained that the enemy is not Islam but "radical Islam," which seeks "to destroy our Western way of life."
However, Gabriel has been accused of neglecting such distinctions in the past. She has reportedly stated in 2007 that a devout Muslim "cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America" and said that Muslims should not be allowed to hold public office.
ACT for America has lobbied for the passage of state statutes and constitutional amendments, known collectively as "American Laws for American Courts" measures, that would prohibit courts from applying Shariah.
Khalid Hamideh, the lawyer and spokesman for the Richardson Islamic center, contended that "it is absolute nonsense" to suggest that Muslims are attempting to set up Shariah courts in the U.S., substituting the judgment of Shariah for something like the Bill of Rights or the Kansas Motor Vehicle Code.
The anti-Sharia protests have been denounced by numerous religious and civil-liberties groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Amnesty International USA, the United Methodist Church, the Sikh Coalition, the American Friends Service Committee, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the National Council of La Raza.