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CAIR, Muslim Student Association to hold 'unity rally' on Towson University campus after 'hateful' protest

Protesters clash at Towson University over LGBT rights. (Libby Solomon, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Muslim organizations are hosting a unity rally Wednesday at Towson University to push back against “hateful rhetoric” after a group from Pennsylvania protested Muslims, gay people and other groups on campus last week.

“It’s important for our communities to be able to say we reject any form of intolerance,” said Zainab Chaudry, director of Maryland outreach for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

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The rally, set for 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at Freedom Square on campus, will be hosted jointly by CAIR and the university’s Muslim Student Association.

Chaudry said the lineup of speakers is still in the works but that it will include a “diverse lineup of people of different faiths, ethnic communities, the LGBTQIA community, and other people who want to take a strong stand against the bigotry and xenophobia and hateful rhetoric that’s becoming more emboldened in our society.”

The Key of David Christian Center, a self-described nondenominational church north of Philadelphia arrived on campus last week bearing signs declaring “Jesus or hellfire!” and promising hellfire to Muslims, gay people, “drunks,” “witches,” and the Pope, among other groups.

“Students were shocked,” Chaudry said. “They were horrified. Some students reported feeling unsafe, and many were outraged that this is happening in 2019.”

Last week’s protest, which began on campus and was moved to a public road, was met by hundreds of student counterprotesters who waved gay pride flags and chanted “love is love.”

In addition to the unity rally, university spokesman Sean Welsh said other events celebrating diversity are set to take place this week, including Pride Week and a diversity speaker series.

Pride Week, hosted by the Student Government Association, will include a Lavender Celebration to celebrate LGBT students’ accomplishments, a pride carnival and a queer prom for students.

Chaudry said the rally Wednesday is meant to do what those counterprotesters did last week: to declare, loudly, a commitment to diversity on campus.

“By sending that message more loudly, we’re hoping that will drown out the hateful rhetoric,” Chaudry said.

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