A crowd of 300 gathered Friday outside an Austin mosque to show solidarity with Muslim Americans in light of a spate of Islamophobic hate crimes following the presidential election. The protesters, organized by the newly formed activist group Muslim Solidarity ATX, held signs outside the Nueces Mosque reading “We love our Muslim Neighbors” as worshippers gathered for Friday prayers.
“I just came here like every Friday; I had no idea this was happening,” said Mayce Sadi, a biochemistry student and mosque member. “It’s amazing all these people took the time to come here and show support.”
Demonstrators also held signs reading “We stand with our Muslim neighbors,” “Jews reject Trump” and “You make America great.”
The mosque’s imam, Mohamed-Umer Esmail, addressed the crowd with a political message after prayers. “As long as we have wonderful people like you, America will always be great,” he said. “Together, we can get through hopefully only four years of President Trump.”
The Islamic Center of Greater Austin estimates that more than 10,000 Muslims live in the capital city. Esmail told the Observer he had heard reports of women being verbally harassed for wearing the hijab and of drivers intentionally swerving toward Muslim bicyclists.
Sadi confirmed the tense mood among the community. “What scares us is not that Trump is a racist,” she said. “It’s that so many people supported him, and you don’t know if they’re on the street or in your class with you.”
Matt Korn, a local LGBTQ rights activist who first called for the demonstration, told the Observer he was motivated by stories from Muslim friends who were facing harassment. Korn said that he first connected with Imam Esmail’s mosque after Esmail participated in a vigil for the victims of the Orlando nightclub attack in June. The homophobic hate crime, carried out by an ISIS sympathizer, triggered a wave of Islamophobia that Korn sought to address by partnering with Esmail.
This month, when the presidential election set off a rash of anti-Muslim incidents, Korn reached out to the mosque again to offer support.
“I wanted to do this event to show people living in fear that there is love and support,” Korn said. “And to strengthen our community’s resolve for when worse things come down the pipe, like a Muslim registry.” Korn said Muslim Solidarity ATX will plan more public demonstrations in the future.