As anti-Islam protests broke out in countries like Germany and Denmark last week in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, simmering tensions have seemingly crossed the Atlantic to Texas, where a Muslim conference over the weekend was met with roughly a thousand demonstrators holding American flags and signs railing against Sharia.
The "Stand With the Prophet Against Terror and Hate" conference held in the city of Garland, Texas on Saturday was aimed at fighting Islamophobia, which the group behind the conference says is, "causing problems around the world." But their message was met with pushback from protesters carrying signs with slogans that called Islam the "enemy of freedom" and who told the attendees they were "not welcome" in their country.
According to a report from NBC Dallas-Fort Worth, some of the demonstrators took issue with Sharia, a form of moral and religious Islamic law, while others specifically targeted the public school system for allowing the event to be held at one of its buildings in the area northeast of Dallas.
"We pay our taxes to that school, and I don't want them here," one woman told the station, while holding a "God Bless America" sign.
The event drew a heightened police presence and also some counter-protesters who also turned up outside, carrying their own signs with messages that read: "Jesus is not a hater."
Saturday's event in Garland featured a panel of prominent speakers, including Georgetown University Professor John Esposito and Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid from Chicago, who has been selected three times as one the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. It is one of many events planned by organizing group Sound Vision, which has scheduled conferences in several cities around the country as part of the "Stand with the Prophet" tour. The group has already held events in a number of cities, including Boston and Chicago, and aims to raise money for a strategic communication center to help eliminate negative public opinion of Muslims.
"I go to Muslim countries, and I speak all over the United States," Esposito said during his speech Saturday, according to the Dallas News. "What's interesting to me is that this is the first time that I've been in a situation that I'm come to speak and I've seen this level of hate."
The demonstration in Texas comes at a time when the German anti-Islam group, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) is garnering worldwide attention for its mass rallies held in the days after the Paris attacks.
Last week, PEGIDA held a demonstration in its home base in Dresden, which drew 25,000 people. On Monday, however, the movement was forced to cancel a march after German authorities reported Islamist extremists had threatened the group. Police banned the planned event, but some 200 people carried on with the march anyway, theTelegraph reported.
Satellite protests in other major German cities, including Berlin and Munich also broke out last week, although in some cases, PEGIDA demonstrators were outnumbered by counter-protesters. In Munich, around 11,000 people faced off against the 800 PEGIDA supporters.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized PEGIDA, saying its leaders had "prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts," but also defended demonstrators' fundamental right to protest anywhere in the country, saying that "such a great good must be protected as far as possible."