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Report: Anti-Muslim Organization Growing Deep Roots in MT

The fight over refugee resettlement has become a flashpoint in Montana. (Mrs. Gemstone/Flickr)
The fight over refugee resettlement has become a flashpoint in Montana. (Mrs. Gemstone/Flickr)
November 15, 2017

HELENA, Mont. -- A new report examines the deep roots of the growing anti-Muslim movement in Montana.

The Montana Human Rights Network's "ACTing for Islamophobia" report takes a look at some of the groups spreading hate directed at Muslims - specifically local chapters of ACT for America, a network the Southern Poverty Law Center has called the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the country.

Travis McAdam, research director for the Montana Human Rights Network, said the organization's most active chapter, Flathead ACT, often features speakers from the Montana Republican establishment.

"There definitely seems to be a lot of overlap between the leadership of the local county chapters of ACT for America and also the local Republicans' women's clubs in those same counties,” McAdam said. “And some of that is no doubt somewhat organic."

In 2016, ACT for America named Flathead the chapter of the year. According to the report, the chapter frequently features speakers from across the country with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views.

Many Montana Republicans deny that ACT for America is a hate group. Supporters of the group describe it as educational.

ACT for America has sponsored anti-Sharia law bills in Montana's state House, even though the Muslim population in the state is very small. McAdam said the anti-Muslim groups have largely used “defensive” language when speaking in Montana.

"Part of that rhetoric that they've used is that Montanans basically need to fight to keep Montana the way that it is,” he said. "In other words, 'We need to take action to keep Muslim people from moving in and taking over the state.'"

Groups also have used refugee resettlement as a flashpoint for debate. McAdam said Flathead ACT might be winning the battle for recruits.

"Flathead ACT is doing that up in the Flathead area, and we don't think that that really does represent the majority of people in most communities,” he said. "So, trying to give people some information that they can take out and use in their communities to counter this rhetoric is a really good first step."

The ACTing for Islamophobia report is available here.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT