- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2015

Amid the wave of Islamophobia stemming from last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Muslims in the United States are being offered solace from an unlikely source: satanists.

At least two chapters of the Satanic Temple announced this week that its members would be happy to help any Muslims made uncomfortable by the recent surge in anti-Islamic sentiment.

“If there is anyone in the San Jose region who is Muslim and afraid to leave their home out of fear for some kind of backlash, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would be glad to escort you where you need to go without advertising our presence — just big dudes walking you where you need to be. We would also happily deliver you some groceries,” the San Jose chapter of the Satanic Temple advertised on its Facebook page Wednesday.

Within a day, the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of the temple extended a hand as well.

“Our offer to the Muslims of the Twin Cities comes from a place of genuine compassion for our fellow human beings. It’s not to ride the tide of sentiment or capitalize on people for further name recognition. Let us know if you or someone you know need the sort of assistance we are offering,” the group said.

The temple’s offering comes the same week as the release of the Public Religion Research Institute’s 2015 Religious Landscape Survey, an annual report put out on Wednesday that concluded “Americans’ perceptions of Islam have turned more negative over the past few years.”

While the pollsters acknowledged that its questionnaire was conducted before Islamic extremists waged coordinated attacks in the French capital last week, killing more than 100, PRRI CEO Robert Jones said the data still shows an “increased xenophobic streak in the American public,” the likes of which he attributed directly in part to the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there’s war between Islam and the west, and when you see individuals in positions of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive. And it needs to stop,” President Obama said this week.

The Satanic Temple has offered a helping hand — a gesture not entirely atypical for the group, an atheistic branch of Satanism which encourages “benevolence and empathy among all people.”

“When people hear Satanism, immediately all these tired old Hollywood tropes come to mind — heavy metal and [Dungeons & Dragons], listening to [Black] Sabbath in the woods behind your house and getting stoned and killing a cat,” John Wreisner, the founder of the temple’s Minneapolis chapter, told an interviewer earlier this year.

“A lot of people are disarmed by the notion that we’re socially active satanists,” he said. “As a rule, I suppose we’re a religion first and foremost. It just so happens that the practice of our religion requires us to defend personal autonomy and the establishment clause in the Constitution.”

In June, the group sued the Missouri governor and attorneys general over statewide restrictions requiring pregnant woman to wait 72 hours before terminating a pregnancy. The temple also proposed erecting a 7-foot-tall Baphomet statue in order to settle a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union after a Ten Commandments monument was placed outside the Oklahoma State Capitol.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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