Muslims in the Midwest state of Minnesota say they are worried about their security after recent anti-Sharia rallies held by right-wing extremists.

Muslim leaders and members of Somali communities in Minnesota say they need help and protection as anti-Muslim sentiment and hate crimes targeting Muslim-Americans surge.

Community members are critical of Act for America, a right-wing group that has staged anti-Sharia marches in more than 20 cities. The group says Sharia law poses a threat to the United States and claims to be acting to protect free speech and traditional American values.

Afraid for their lives

Meyran Omar, a Somali-American woman in Minnesota said the anti-Muslim sentiments make her fear for her life.

“When I am on my way home, while I am driving or walking or even going into my apartment, I look around and I never had that fear before,” she said.

Omar says the spreading anti-Islam attitudes have led some Muslim women to change their dress, as wearing hajib makes them visible representations of the religion.

“Islamophobia and hate are increasing more; some of us stopped wearing the headscarves. It does not mean that they are bad Muslims, but they are scared for their lives. We need help,” she said.

​Anti-Muslim sentiment

Imam Abdisalam Adam of Darul-Hjirah mosque in Minneapolis, says the claim by Act for America that Islam is dangerous to the United States has no evidence to back it up.

“We notice an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment and people who claim to be anti-Sharia law, but the reality is when you look at the issue and the way they are presenting, there is no evidence what they are calling for,” he said.

Adam, who is also a board member of ICSA (Islamic Civic Society in America), says Muslims living in the U.S. believe in the U.S. Constitution.

“Muslim communities are law-abiding and follow the Constitution of United State, so it seems it’s a politically motivated,” he said.

Adam called on the U.S. government to send a very clear message that this country’s laws have to be respected and that Muslims are as much a part of the country as members of any other religious group.

Meet, talk to Muslims

The imam says they are ready to welcome members of Act for America to come and see how Muslims are living and raising their families as regular Americans.

“What we are telling these hate-mongers, the people who are spreading this bigotry, is to get to know us, and we welcome them to our mosques and our institutions.”

On its website, Act for America says it “has never, and will never, tolerate any bias, discrimination, or violence against anyone, based on their religion, gender, race, or political persuasion. Freedom to practice one’s religion in peace is afforded to each of us by the U.S. Constitution and we will continue to defend it vigorously.”

VOA’s Abdi Mahamud in Minneapolis contributed to this story. 

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