SIOUX CENTER, Iowa | About a half dozen activists conducted a silent protest during Thursday night's Sioux County Conservatives’ Pizza and Policy meeting.
The protesters were expressing their concern about the evening's presenter Stephen Kirby, a Des Moines author of five books about Islam.
Approximately 120 people attended the event at the Sioux Center Public Library.
The activists said Kirby instills fear and misinformation into the public about Islam. Kirby says his work and research is meant to give people a clearer understanding on the religion.
The demonstrators held newspapers up to their faces and put earbuds on when Kirby spoke.
“The message is: We ignore this type of speech, we don’t debate it,” said protest organizer Glenn Hurst.
The executive director of the Iowa Chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations told the Des Moines Register Kirby is a well-known “bigot” that takes readings from the Quran and other Islamic information out of context to give a misleading impression.
Kirby, a retired Los Angeles police detective, sheds any claims of prejudice saying his work is based on authoritative sources in the Quran and teachings of Muhammad.
“My immediate reaction (on the protesters) is that they haven’t heard what I have to say,” Kirby said. “I’ve written five books, 21 brochures, have 40 some published articles and I have yet to have anybody bring up any specific examples of hate towards Muslims. I’m still waiting.”
Hurst, who is running as a Democrat for a seat on the Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors, said he drove up from his home in Minden because he feels Kirby is spreading misinformation on the religion. Hurst said he was a part of a similar demonstration at a presentation by Kirby in Oakland, Iowa, in September.
“I’m here because these events are popping up all around the state of Iowa and as an Iowan, I have a responsibility to stand up against ignorance to make sure we focus the debate on real topics,” Hurst said.
Hurst admits he has not read any of Kirby’s books, but has read Kirby’s statements that say Muslims should have their freedoms restricted in the country.
“I wouldn’t say, (I’m) anti-Islamic,” Kirby said. “I am concerned about Islam. There are certain aspects of Islamic doctrine that concerns me very much.”
In a press release, Hurst likens Kirby’s work to propaganda similar to what was used by the “German people against the Jews in the 1930s.”
“I would love to have them explain that one,” Kirby responded before his presentation. “I read that and heard that some place, and said, ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ Hopefully they will sit here and listen to what I have to say and if somehow they draw a parallel I would love to hear it.”
Hurst reiterated the group will not have any dialogue with Kirby on the subject of Islam.
“I have no problem talking with Steve Kirby,” Hurst said. “I am just not going to talk with him about this particular topic. There is nothing to discuss.”
“This is the first time I have been faced with (protesters),” Kirby said. “I am kind of overwhelmed by it. I’m amazed that this has created such a fury.”