Armed protests expected at US Muslim convention amid rising Islamophobia

Source: TRT World

Top Democrat politicians are due to attend a conference organised by Muslim-American groups, but far-right activists are also planning to turn up.

Presidential hopefuls Julian Castro and Bernie Sanders are scheduled to attend an annual Islamic conference in Texas over the weekend, while a far-right demonstration against the event is expected to draw an anti-fascist counter-protest.

Hosted by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Emgage Foundation, the conference will include moderated sessions and is slated to take place at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Speaking to the Houston Chronicle, the organisers said they expect upwards of 30,000 participants to attend the conference. The event hopes to encourage an increased Muslim American electoral participation as the US nears the 2020 presidential election.

Between 2014 and 2017, Castro, a Democrat from Texas, served as the US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former president Barack Obama.

Sanders, an independent and current US Senator from Vermont, vied for the Democratic slot in the 2016 presidential election but lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton.

The annual Houston event comes at a time when the country is gripped by rising anti-Muslim sentiment, much of it spearheaded by US President Donald Trump and his Republican Party.

On Facebook, the Texas Patriot Network, a far-right group that supports Trump, has called for a protest against the conference, which it described as a “terrorist fundraiser” supposedly linked to the “Muslim Brotherhood”.

In the Facebook event’s description, Texas Patriot Network informed supporters that “open carry is allowed”, referring to carrying a firearm in public.

Contacted by TRT World, the Houston Police Department’s media relations office said it was unable to comment on the conference and planned protests at the moment, although it noted that groups and individuals have the right to hold “peaceful assemblies”.

Rally and counter-rally

The far-right news site One America News claimed in the lead-up to the conference: “Far-left socialist candidates … have agreed to speak at a convention with blatant ties to radical Islamic terrorists.”

The accusations stem from past allegations that the Islamic Society of North America had links to banned organisations.

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