Anti-Muslim Violence, Hate Crimes, and Islamophobia
by Sheila Musaji
Our TAM collection of PREJUDICE, RACIST, OR VIOLENT INCIDENTS AT MOSQUES includes this summary of 2012 incidents and of anti-mosque efforts. The collection itself contains links to information on each incident:
2012 SUMMARY of attacks on mosques (includes attacks on Arab churches and the Sikh Temple)—CALIFORNIA - Ibrahim Khillullah Mosque in Fremont, man threatened to shooteveryone. - An Nur mosque in Ontario had pig legs thrown on the sites driveways. Prayers at a Hayward Mosque were disrupted by teenagers throwing lemons and oranges, shooting bb guns, and insulting worshippers. - West Sacramento Islamic Center vandalized for second time. — Woman arrested at Islamic School and mosque in Florida for carrying a sword onto the property. — ILLINOIS - Gravestones at Evergreen Park cemetery vandalized twice. - Lombard Mosque College Prep School hit with an acid filled bottle thrown during Taraweh prayers. - Muslim Education Center Mosque in Morton Grove had shots fired during Taraweh prayers. — MARYLAND - Riverview Islamic Center vandalized. — MICHIGAN - Mother of the Savior Lutheran Church (Arab Christian) in Dearborn vandalized twice in a week. - Fire and graffiti at Dearborn mosque. — MISSOURI - Two arsons attacks on Joplin mosque, second destroyed it. NEVADA - Las Vegas mosque arson. — NEW HAMPSHIRE - Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite Church Arabic sign vandalized. NEW YORK - Elderly man beaten and stabbed when he came to open the doors of a Queen Mosque. - Masjid Darul Quran Mosque in N. Bayshore vandalized. - Fire bomb attack on Queens Imam al Khoei Mosque. OHIO Arson attack on Toledo Mosque. OKLAHOMA - Oklahoma City Mosque vandalized by paint balls fired at it. PENNSYLVANIA - St. Ann’s Arab Catholic Cathedral in Pottsville vandalized and Palestinian flags torn down. — RHODE ISLAND - N. Smithfield Mosque vandalized. — SOUTH CAROLINA - Rock Hills Mosque vandalized. — TENNESSEE - Man arrested for threats to blow up Murfreesboro mosque. — TEXAS - Man arrested for threatening to kill as many as possible at San Antonio Mosque. = A dead pig left outside a Houston mosque. — VIRGINIA - Harrisonburg Mosque vandalized. - Dar al Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church vandalized. — WISCONSIN - Terrorist attack on Sikh Temple (possibly thought it was a mosque).
It is important to note that 17 of these incidents happened in a 2-month period in July and August of 2012. See Why Is a mosque not like a church? for a discussion of this phenomenon.
Some of these incidents could have resulted in deaths, and in some cases like the men who threatened to go into mosques and kill people, the only reason there were not deaths was because someone gave information to the police, and the police were able to arrest the perpetrators before they were able to carry out these acts.
Update 1/6/2013— Someone shot into windows at the Prince Aga Khan Shia Ismaili Jamatkhana in Fayetteville, GA **
Since August, when the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek Wisconsin was attacked and 6 innocent people were killed there have been in addition to crimes against houses of worship, a number of attacks and even murders of individuals.
JANUARY 2013 — A couple attacked outside a Walmart in Pasco, Florida. They were harassed with racial slurs, including shouting “n**ger with a white girl,” as they were leaving a local Walmart at 3 a.m. today. A police report indicates that the shooting victim was asked if he is Middle Eastern and whether he is Muslim. He reportedly answered “no” to each question. The alleged attacker shot the man at least twice in the face with a pellet gun. Local law enforcement authorities are investigating the incident (Police Report 13-163) as a hate crime. (see update 1/2/13 below)
DECEMBER 2012— A woman was arrested for murder as a hate crime for pushing a Hindu man off the tracks of an elevated subway station in Queens, New York two days earlier because she believed him to be a Muslim or a Hindu. The man was killed by an oncoming train. She told police: “I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I’ve been beating them up.” **
— An elderly man was attacked and beaten by two men in Queens, New York. They first asked him if he was a Muslim or a Hindu. **
— Another elderly man was beaten and stabbed when he came to open the doors of Masjid-al-Saaliheen in Queens, New York. the suspect, who is believed to be in his 40’s, yelled anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic slurs at the time of the attack **
NOVEMBER 2012 — A Sikh cab driver in Seattle, Washington was badly beaten by a man shouting anti-Muslim slurs. **
I find it particularly sad that this man that was murdered was a Hindu. That is because a member of the Hindu community, Babu Suseelan, who is on the Stop the Islamization of Nations (SION) board [their motto is “Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.”], recently engaged in incitement to violence against Muslims at the AFDI/SIOA/SIOE/SION/EDL/BF Global Alliance Event held on 9/11/2012 in New York. At that conference in the same city where a Hindu was murdered this week, Suseelan issued a call for genocide against Muslims: “If we do not kill the bacteria the bacteria will kill us.” Otherwise, he warned, “Muslims will breed like rats and they will be a majority.” Still, he concluded hopefully, “Islam can be stopped! And it can be wiped out.” It is sad that extremist hatemongers don’t realize that when you attempt to stir up hatred against one group, it always spills over into hatred against others.
As I have said previously, Islamophobia and all other forms of bigotry clouds people’s judgement about how closely anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and all other forms of bigotry are linked. Encouraging and condoning bigotry towards any minority ultimately can come to hurt all minorities. Ravings against Islam and Muslims are appealing to a certain segment of the population who need to have someone to blame and to look down on. But such raving is like taking a stick and sticking it into a hive of hornets and shaking it around and hoping you can control who those hornets sting.
Such violent acts carried out against others, whether because of the color of their skin, or because the perpetrator thought they were Muslims or Jews or Sikhs or Hindus, or because they were immigrants, or because they were gay - the awful result is the same. There is no “mistaken identity” involved, only carefully taught hatred. Such violence targets people because they are somehow “different”, and therefore beyond compassion. There is no “appropriate” target for such hateful acts. There is no “correct” group to target with hatred and bigotry and violence. All hate is misdirected.
Those who spread divisiveness and bigotry need to seriously consider what effect they are having. Whatever form of bigotry some find to be “reasonable” whether it is anti-Semitism, anti-Gay, anti-Black, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, anti-Sikh, anti-immigrant, it doesn’t matter. They are all equally wrong, and they all poison the well of public discourse, and harm us all. Whatever the particular focus of blind hatred, it is corrosive and harms real human beings.
The man who burned down the Toledo, Ohio mosque told the court that When U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary asked Linn about his motivation, he responded that he was spurred on by newspaper, radio and Fox News accounts suggesting Muslims were killing “us” and were in control of the Department of Homeland Security and the White House. When asked if he knew any Muslims or about the Islamic faith, he said he did not; he knew only what he got from Fox News, and he did know that ‘they don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the savior.”
It would seem that the level of our public discourse about Islam and Muslims may have some effect in pushing some possibly unstable individuals over the edge. It is worth considering that the constant stream of negative propaganda coming from the Islamophobia echo chamber has something to do with an increasingly negative view of Muslims. Not just actual criminals from within the Muslim community, but all Muslims, or anyone perceived to be Muslim. As Wajahat Ali notes in Death by brown skin :
... In 2012, The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported a 300 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate groups. In 2010, the FBI reported unprecedented 50 percent rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes, with 160 reported cases. In 2011, the number dipped slightly to 157.
SPLC mentions the 2010 Ground Zero Mosque debate as the key driver for the recent surge in anti-Muslim sentiment. The controversy and subsequent protests against the Park 51 community center, which is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero, was directly manufactured and orchestrated by Pamela Geller and SIOA. Now, there are over 50 ongoing nationwide movements against allowing Muslims to build their constitutionally protected houses of worship.
In a 3-month period this summer, there were 17 attacks on against houses of worship or facilities connected with different minority religious groups. Two of those attacks were in Illinois immediately after Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) told a town hall in Chicago that “Muslims are “trying to kill Americans every week. Islam is a threat in America, It’s a real threat…and it’s a threat that is much more at home now than it was right after 9/11. It’s here, in the suburbs of Chicago.“It’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin. It’s here.” He is only the most recent of our elected representatives and government officials who have made such bigoted statements. See Islamophobia no longer questioned - even by our elected representatives for a list of many more such statements. Is it completely coincidental that within days after this statement was made publicly, two mosques were attacked in his own state (one of them in his own district)?
There have been two articles published in the past week which are relevant to this discussion. They are both about the same new study that sheds light on the constant negative messages. The first is by Hamed Aleaziz on Think Progress . The second is by Krystina Friedlander A Look Back at Media Coverage of Islam and Islamic Law in 2012. Hamed Aleaziz says:
Between 2001 and 2008, mainstream media outlets predominantly featured anti-Islam organizations, leading to altered “contours of mainstream discourse.” That’s according to North Carolina Professor Christopher A. Bail’s study that used “anti-plagiarism” software to examine the coverage of Muslims in the mainstream American press. Bail surveyed more than “1,084 press releases about Muslims produced by 120 civil society organizations to 50,407 newspaper articles and television transcripts” during the seven crucial years after 9/11.
Bail told the British Wired magazine that journalists became enamored with the those spouting anti-Muslim rhetoric, and that even though “the vast majority of organizations competing to shape public discourse about Islam after the September 11 attacks delivered pro-Muslim messages,” journalists so closely followed extremists that the groups became perceived as “mainstream.” Muslim groups, as a result, were sidelined and became less influential. Bail painted a disturbing picture for Wired, saying:
“I think most Americans are exposed to anti-Muslim messages in the media and elsewhere. The danger, I believe, is that many Americans have not been exposed to the positive messages of moderate Muslim organisations because they receive so little media coverage. Perhaps because of this distorted representation, we have seen a recent increase in anti-Muslim attitudes within the United States — even though anti-Muslim attitudes briefly decreased after the September 11 attacks.”
An August 2011 Center for American Progress study, Fear Inc, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America, revealed that seven different organizations spent $42 million on efforts that fanned “the flames of anti-Muslim hate in America” over the last ten years. The money helped Islamophobic messages take hold:
Over the past few years, the Islamophobia network (the funders, scholars, grassroots activists, media amplifiers, and political validators) have worked hard to push narratives that Obama might be a Muslim, that mosques are incubators of radicalization, and that “radical Islam” has infiltrated all aspects of American society — including the conservative movement.
And the network has had its effect. “The groups that were getting the majority of the attention, especially after 9/11, were some of the least representative groups, or what I call fringe groups,” Bail said.
These articles did not note one particular passage in the study that I believe is important - Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) is named as one of the “angry and fearful fringe organizations” that “not only exerted powerful influence on media discourse about Muslims in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, but ultimately became some of the most influential mainstream groups in the field. By 2008, these fringe organizations not only permeated the mainstream but also forged vast social networks that consolidated their capacity to create cultural change.” You can read the entire study here.
I believe that the Islamophobia industry has had an effect on the popular perception of Islam and Muslims. They have freedom of speech, but Freedom of speech does not include freedom from condemnation of that speech. We are seeing more people speaking out against this demonization of Muslims, for example during the current anti-Muslim ad campaign, many in the Jewish and Christian communities spoke out. We need many more individuals and organizations to speak out and condemn bigotry. We need more messages of love and tolerance and compassion (like the ad above) to counter the messages of hate.
The American Muslim community has attempted to counter the narrative of both our own Muslim extremists, and the Islamophobes, and spoken out clearly against extremism and violence, but our efforts have been ignored by the mainstream press, and have been met with increased verbal attacks and hostility from the Islamophobes (and from the Muslim extremists). The recent “My Jihad” ad campaign in Chicago is an example of how this scenario plays out.
Reading the comments under many articles on the internet having anything to do with Islam or Muslims is informative. Clearly, these negative messages are having an effect. I have noticed that even individuals who can’t put together a coherent sentence, or spell common English words will leave comments including terms like taqiyya, sharia, jihad, abrogation or naskh, etc. with the negative connotations placed on these terms by the Islamophobes.
The Islamophobia network has been churning out articles in the past week again claiming that nothing they might have said or done could have had any influence on anyone to actually carry out a violent act. They might want to do a little soul searching as the violence continues. The AP might also want to reconsider their ban on the use of the term Islamophobia.
Death by brown skin, Wajahat Ali http://www.salon.com/2012/12/31/death_by_brown_skin/
Deputies: Man shot with pellet gun in hate crime at Pasco Walmart http://www2.tbo.com/news/pasco/2013/jan/02/deputies-man-shot-with-pellet-gun-in-hate-crime-at-ar-596372/
‘Hate Crime’ Suspect Sought After Lutz Walmart Shooting http://lutz.patch.com/articles/hate-crime-suspect-sought-after-lutz-walmart-shooting-2fa91623
Love thy neighbor, unless that neighbor is a Muslim, Sheila Musaji http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/it-takes-courage-for-non-muslims-to-speak-out-against-islamophobia/0019607
What’s Islamophobia, and Do I Have It?, Haroon Moghul http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/6729/what_s_islamophobia__and_do_i_have_it/
The Islamophobia Industry exists and is engaged in an anti-Muslim Crusade. They have a manifesto for spreading their propaganda, and which states their goal of “destroying Islam — as a culture, a political ideology, and a religion.” They produce anti-Muslim films. They are forming new organizations and coalitions of organizations at a dizzying speed, not only nationally, but also internationally. They have formed an International Leadership Team “which will function as a mobile, proactive, reactive on-the-ground team developing and executing confidential action plans that strike at the heart of the global anti-freedom agenda.”
Currently, the Islamophobia Industry is engaged in a full-scale, coordinated, demonization campaign against American Muslims and Arabs. In just the past few months we have seen a series of inflammatory provocations: There was the Innocence of Muslims film Titanic, a German satire magazine plans an “Islam” cover article to be published later this month. Charlie Hebdo, a French satire magazine published an issue with inflammatory cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Newsweek published their ‘Muslim Rage’ cover. Terry Jones held a “trial of Prophet Muhammad”. SION held a “global” gathering in NYC to plan propaganda strategy. A group in Toronto publicized a “walk your dog at the mosque” day. AFDI/SIOA has run a series of anti-Muslim ads on public transportation across the country. AFDI/SIOA are planning to run 8 more anti-Muslim ads. There are three more films on Prophet Muhammad in the works by Ali Sina, Mosab Hassan Yousef and Imran Farasat. They are even bringing their hate messages into public schools.
Daniel Pipes is encouraging publication of “A Muhammad cartoon a day”, and says “So, this is my plea to all Western editors and producers: Display the Muhammad cartoon daily, until the Islamists become accustomed to the fact that we turn sacred cows into hamburger.”. Pipes joins Daniel Greenfield (aka Sultan Knish) who published an appeal on David Horowitz’ Front Page Magazine Is It Time for ‘Make Your Own Mohammed Movie Month’?. And, both are following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Pamela Geller, who promoted just such a plan back in 2010 with her promotion of Draw Muhammad Day, even after the cartoonist who drew the first cartoon and suggested the idea, Molly Norris apologized to Muslims and asked for the day to be called off, and American Muslims had issued a defense of free speech. None of this is surprising as one of the Islamophobes laid out their strategy as “The Muslims themselves have shown us their most vulnerable spot, which is the questionable (though unquestioned) character of the ‘Prophet’ himself. We need to satirise and ridicule baby-bonking Mo until the Muslims fly into uncontrollable tantrums, then ridicule them even more for their tantrums, and repeat the process until they froth at the mouth and steam comes out of their ears.”
The Islamophobia of these folks is very real, it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism, and it has predictable consequences. The reason that this is so obvious to so many is that rational people can tell the difference between legitimate concerns and bigoted stereotypes.
The claim that the Islamophobes are “truth-tellers” and “defenders of freedom” who actually “love Muslims” and have never engaged in “broadbrush demonization” or “advocated violence”, or that nothing that they say could have had anything to do with any act of violence, are nonsense. The claim that they are falsely being accused of Islamophobia for no reason other than their legitimate concerns about real issues and that in fact there is not even such a thing as Islamophobia, or their claim that the fact that there are fewer hate crimes against Muslims than against Jews or that some Muslims have fabricated such crimes “proves” that Islamophobia doesn’t exist, or that the term Islamophobia was made up by Muslims in order to stifle their freedom of speech, or that anti-Muslim bigotry is “not Islamophobia but Islamorealism” are all nonsense.
The Islamophobes generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam. They consistently push the false memes that: - we are in danger from creeping Sharia, - the Muslim population is increasing at an alarming rate, - 80% of American Mosques are radicalized, - Muslims in government are accused of being Muslim Brotherhood plants, stealth jihadists, and creeping Sharia proponents and should be MARGINALIZED or excluded. Every Muslim organization is connected to the infamous Muslim Brotherhood document or the unindicted co-conspirator label. Individual Muslims and Arabs, and their organizations are accused of not condemning Hamas, telling American Muslims not to talk to the FBI, of being “Jew haters”, etc.
These individuals and organizations consistently promote the false what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims (including distorting the meaning of Qur’anic verses, and distorting the meaning of Islamic terms such as taqiyya, jihad, sharia, etc.). Islamophobes falsely claim to see “JIHAD” PLOTS everywhere, particularly where they don’t exist. They, like Muslim extremists, don’t understand the true meaning of the term jihad. The Islamophobes have uncovered countless examples of “shocking”, non-existent Muslim jihad plots.
There is a reason that many, even outside of the Muslim community see such demonization of Muslims as Islamophobic. There is a reason that the ADL has stated that Brigitte Gabriel’s Act for America, Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA), David Yerushalmi’s Society of Americans for National Existence (SANE) are “groups that promote an extreme anti-Muslim agenda”. There is a reason that The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated SIOA as a hate group, and that these individuals are featured in the SPLC reports Jihad Against Islam and The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle. There is a reason that these individuals and organizations are featured prominently in: — the Center for American Progress reports “Fear Inc.” on the Islamophobia network in America and Understanding Sharia Law: Conservatives skewed interpretation needs debunking. — the People for the American Way Right Wing Playbook on Anti-Muslim Extremism. — the NYCLU report Religious Freedom Under Attack: The Rise of Anti-Mosque Activities in New York State. — the Political Research Associates report Manufacturing the Muslim menace: Private firms, public servants, and the threat to rights and security. — The ACLU report Nothing to Fear: Debunking the Mythical “Sharia Threat” to Our Judicial System — in The American Muslim TAM Who’s Who of the Anti-Muslim/Anti-Arab/Islamophobia Industry. There is a reason that the SIOA’s trademark patent was denied by the U.S. government due to its anti-Muslim nature. There is a reason that these individuals and organizations are featured in just about every legitimate report on Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred.
See Resources for dealing with Islamophobes for many more reasons that these people cannot be trusted.
LOVE THY NEIGHBOR ad ” placed on RTD buses (Provided by Anti-Defamation League). Source: The Denver Post
Originally published 12/30/12
Sheila Musaji is the founding editor of The American Muslim (TAM). Sheila received the Council on American-Islamic Relations 2007 Islamic Community Service Award for Journalism, and the Loonwatch Anti-Loons of 2011: Profiles in Courage Award for her work in fighting Islamophobia. Sheila was selected for inclusion in the 2012 edition of The Muslim 500: The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims published since 2009 by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Amman, Jordan. Biography You can follow her on twitter @sheilamusaji ( https://twitter.com/SheilaMusaji )