Three dozen demonstrators of various faiths protested last night outside a conservative synagogue in Stoughton, where former Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a guest speaker at a $45-per person event—$200 if you stayed for dinner—accused Huma Abedin, aide to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, of having ties to terrorist groups.
To a rapt audience of about 200 people, Bachmann wove a conspiracy story linking Abedin to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, earning her a standing ovation. Bachmann accused Clinton of being lax with security in allowing Abedin into her inner circle as Secretary of State. She provided no evidence for her claims, but the story she told was one that has long been promulgated by fellow speaker, Frank Gaffney, who in a series of newspaper articles in 2009 accused President Obama of adopting a plan for the Middle East that was drawn up by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Video and audio recordings were not permitted in the hall and plainclothes private security personnel ringed the stage and the half-empty room.
I can’t imagine why anyone would invite this unholy trinity of people. It’s kind of a hat trick of hate, unfortunately.
The silent protest outside was billed as a “Choose Love Over Hate” event, a response to the panel discussion inside the synagogue featuring what interfaith leaders throughout the Boston area denounced in a joint letter as “purveyors of anti-Muslim bigotry”.
As attendees made their way into the Ahavath Torah Synagogue, the interfaith group of protestors offered them hugs and donuts to “show a different face of what it means to be Muslim.”
“You know America runs on Dunkin' but they’re running away from [us], they’re passing by,” joked one man, Abdul Rahman Ahmed.
He said there had been few takers.
"Yes, so far I didn’t pass out any [donuts]," he said. "I didn’t get that opportunity."
Meanwhile, onstage inside the synagogue was a who’s who of individuals whom the Anti-Defamation League describes as “anti-Muslim bigots,” but whom some audience members said were simply telling the truth.
The speakers—all known ultra-conservatives—were invited to answer the event's titular question, “National Security Chaos: Are We Passing the Tipping Point?”
Frank Gaffney, the founder of the Center for Security Policy think tank, was joined on stage by radio show host Tom Trento and retired Delta Force commander Jerry Boykin. All three are listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as purveyors of anti-Muslim hatred.
The surprise guest of the evening was Bachmann.
Why these speakers were invited to the Stoughton synagogue is not clear. A telephone call made to the congregation went unanswered. That question was also on the mind of John Robbins, executive director of the Massachusetts branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
“I can’t imagine why anyone would invite this unholy trinity of people," Robbins said. "It’s kind of a hat trick of hate, unfortunately"
The protestors made no attempt to go inside the synagogue, which some of them called a curious place for a gathering of anti-Muslim speakers.
"As a Jew it’s offensive to me that a synagogue would sponsor an event like this which in so many ways contradicts Jewish values," said Elsa, another protestor. "I’m actually the daughter of refugees from Hitler and for me this is particularly offensive.”
Another protestor named Lisa, an American convert to Islam who was wearing a hijab, said the recent political environment has been painful.
"I have some fear of what is coming next," she said. "So I’m here to bear witness of what I really stand for and to be able to speak for myself, while I know other people are speaking about me inside. But at least the people walking by can make a choice about which way they want to turn.”
As the speeches continued inside to the cheers of the audience, the protesters began dispersing and taking with them several unopened boxes of donuts and signs reading “Stop Profiling Muslims”.