Anti-Muslim activists sparred with students Tuesday after they erected a booth and sign that said “Why Islam Kills” outside of the American River College Student Center.
Coming on the heels of the Islamic State’s attack in Paris that left 129 people dead and hundreds injured Friday, the activists — who identified themselves as Christians but refused to identify with a particular denomination or any organized group — said that they wanted to “engage people.”
Keith Humphrey, one of the activists, said that he was surprised at the number of Muslims who attend ARC.
“We’re encountering actual Arabic Muslims. I didn’t expect to go head-to-head with them. There must be hundreds of them on this campus,” said Humphrey. “The main purpose of making a controversial statement is to engage people. You have to make something controversial to get their attention. … If we don’t have an in — a controversial statement — we’re not talking to anyone.” (Story continues below)
The activists were met with opposition from both Muslim and non-Muslim students, who said that the message that “Islam kills” is both offensive and wrong.
“Only 0.2 percent of the so-called ‘Muslims’ are killing anybody,” said Muslim ARC student Awais Khan. “It’s against our religion, which says that if you kill one person, you kill the whole human race.”
Former ARC student Hamzah Ahmad, who is also a Muslim, said that the anti-Muslim activists had a false understanding of his religion.
“I can be out here all day saying ‘I’m Muslim, I’m Muslim’ but if I’m not following the right path, I’m not following the religion of peace, then I’m not a Muslim no matter how much I say,” said Ahmad. “Do you know what the word Islam means? It means peace. It’s the religion of peace brother.”
For his part, an activist that can only be identified as Dick (he did not give his name, and Humphrey declined to give his last name) said that Islam as a whole is a “religion doing horrible things.”
“Our sign is truthful,” Dick said. “The history of Islam has always been one of violence.”
Another activist and former ARC student, Victor Chan, said that his goal is to convert Muslims to Christianity.
“We’re trying to raise awareness to the gospel of Christ in contrast to the teaching of Islam,” said Chan. “Islam was spread by the sword, not the missionaries.”
ARC student Holden Aguirre said that he had been listening in to some of the arguments between the activists and students, and felt that the activists were making unfair assumptions.
“Brash generalizations are never good,” said Aguirre. “You can’t just group people under one umbrella you can’t just say that some people are doing something that they are all the same.”
Los Rios police and Student Life Supervisor Juan Miguel Blanco went out to the booth to see what was going on.
“There is a fine line between hate speech and free speech,” said Blanco. “I think there needs to be a Brave Space set up to talk about this.”
Jordan Schauberger, Kameron Schmid and Mychael Jones contributed to this report.