Eight attacks on Muslim and Sikh establishments in 11 days. Eight in 11 days. That means that every 1.5 days (more or less) mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, uncles, etc. somewhere in America suffer taunts, harrassment, vandalism, violence and — in the worst cases — death, simply because of their religion. What’s going on?!
Here are the basics as reported on Salon.com:
1. Morton Grove, IL
On August 10th, David Conrad, a non-Muslim American, shot an air rifle at a mosque next door to his house while 500 worshipers were inside. The reason? Apparently Conrad was irritated by the noise and traffic produced by the nightly events held during the holy month of Ramadan. No one was hurt, but the building did sustain damage.
2. Lombard, IL (25 miles from Morton Grove)
An unknown individual threw a “MacGyver bomb” — a mixture of cleaning solutions, acid, and aluminum foil — at an Islamic school window during a prayer service on August 12th. Worshippers reported hearing an explosion, but thankfully no one was hurt and nothing was damaged.
3. Joplin, MO
A mosque (and former church) that housed the Islamic Society of Joplin was completely destroyed by fire on August 6th. Arsonists previously attacked this same mosque on July 4th, but fortunately did not succeed in harming worshippers during either incident. The FBI is still investigating whether or not the August 6th incident was indeed arson.
4. North Smithfield, RI
A man head-butted, then tore down a sign outside of a mosque. Maybe not the brightest bulb, but a vandal’s still a vandal and definitely worthy of investigation, if not prosecution.
5. Hayward, CA
On August fourth, four teens threw lemons and oranges at a mosque during (surprise) a Ramadan prayer service. Mosque members said this is the fourth time they have been targeted during Ramadan. Vandals have stolen shoes, shot at worshippers with BB guns, and thrown eggs at mosque windows.
6. Oklahoma City, OK
A car pulled up to the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City in the middle of the night and unleashed a round of paintballs into the entryway. The resident imam said the attack sounded like actual gunfire and expressed concern for the larger than usual numbers of worshippers expected during Ramadan.
7. Ontario, CA
Muslims don’t eat pork. Two women who were presumably aware of this fact dumped pig legs on the site of a future mosque on August 7th and drove away. Perhaps they were just leaving an early housewarming present? Members of the Al-Nur Islamic Center were neither amused nor grateful.
8. Oak Creek, WI
Wade Michael Page opened fire at a Sikh temple, killing six people and injuring three others. As a reminder of the incident, surviving members of the gurdwara left a bullet hole in the door to their prayer space unrepaired.
Aside from the horrific shooting in Oak Creek and the Joplin fire, it may be tempting to think that the remainder of these events were relatively harmless. Being hit with lemons? Someone head-butting a sign? Definitely not worth the time of investigating. Not so. It’s not necessary to physically hurt someone to seriously threaten their security and freedom of expression. In fact, most of the attacks have been investigated as hate crimes by the FBI, which CNN reports has data showing crimes against Muslims rising in recent years.
Unfortunately, growing ire against Muslims and Middle Easterners is that not all that surprising. Think about the backlash surrounding the Park 51 site in New York or statements Republican Representative Joe Walsh — who represents Lombard, IL — made at a town hall meeting. From Salon.com:
Walsh sowed the seeds of mistrust and suspicion by alleging that “radical Islam” had made a home in the suburbs of Chicago; that “It’s in Elk Grove, It’s in Addison, It’s in Elgin. It’s here”; and that radical Muslims are trying to kill Americans every week.” Walsh’s warnings were met with applause.
Hmm. I’ve yet to hear about these radical Muslims supposedly wreaking havoc in suburban Illinois. What I have seen lately is story after story of people being senselessly tormented and killed simply because they are Muslim or otherwise associated with the Middle East. What year is it? Is this still where we are at as a country? If these were Catholic or Baptist churches under attack, I think Representative Walsh’s comments would read slightly differently and local communities would be a bit more incensed.
Out of curiosity, I did a quick Google news search of “Oak Creek Shooting,” an incident obviously involving Sikhs, and one for “Aurora Shooting,” the movie theater shooting in Colorado that wasn’t notably Muslim- or Middle East-related. Oak Creek had 18,000 related articles while Aurora had 56,400. Granted, this was completely informal and unscientific, but the difference in news hits begs a few questions. Do people care less when it’s Muslims being victimized? Are these attacks seen as some sort of redemption for 9/11? Is it fair to hold peaceful communities accountable for the actions of a radical few?
The U.S. has come a long way since the 18th century, and in many places diversity is being met with increasing tolerance and acceptance. Regardless of any progress, however, the recent attacks against Muslims and Sikhs proves there’s still hard work to be done to ensure that all communities enjoy the full extent of their freedoms of expression, speech and religion, not just those that fall into the accepted majority. A member of the mosque targeted in Hayward, CA said it best in her interview with KGO-TV:
Stop doing this because we’re a part of you. It doesn’t matter that we’re a different religion.
Do you agree?
Photo Credit: Mario Piperni via Flickr