Why Is a mosque not like a church? - updated 8/19/12

Why Is a mosque not like a church?

by Sheila Musaji

Since July there have been a number of incidents at places of worship in the U.S.

—An Nur Islamic Center in Ontario, California had pig legs thrown on the sites driveways.
— Prayers at a Hayward, California Mosque were disrupted by teenagers throwing lemons and oranges, and shooting bb guns, and insulting worshippers.  Four teens were arrested.
— The College Preparatory School at the Lombard, Illinois Mosque was hit with an acid filled bottle thrown during Taraweh prayers.
—The Muslim Education Center Mosque in Morton Grove, Illinois had shots fired narrowly missing a security guard during Taraweh prayers when hundreds were inside praying. David Conrad has been arrested.
— Muslim gravestones at the Evergreen Park Cemetery near Chicago vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti for the 6th time in 17 months. (update, the gravestones defaced again on 9/2/12 **)
— There was a second arson attack on the Joplin, Missouri mosque this summer. The first attempted arson was on July 4th, this time the entire mosque was engulfed in flames.
— Our Lady of the Cedars Melkite Greek Catholic Church Arabic sign in New Hampshire vandalized
— St. Ann’s Arabic Catholic Cathedral in Pottsville, Pennsylvania vandalized, American and Palestinian flags torn down.
— The North Smithfield Mosque in Rhode Island was vandalized
— The Oklahoma City Mosque in Oklahoma was vandalized by having paint balls fired at it.
— A Holocaust Memorial in Sheepshead Bay Park, New York was vandalized.
— A firecracker was left in the mailbox of a St. Augustine, Florida Synagogue causing a bomb scare.
— The Mother of the Savior Lutheran Church (Arab Christians) in Dearborn, Michigan was vandalized with broken windows twice in a week. 
— On Eid Day, someone put uncooked bacon on the lawn where Eid prayers were to be held in Staten Island, New York. 
— There was a deadly terrorist attack on a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.  The perpetrator possibly thought it was a mosque.

This is a total of seventeen bigoted incidents or attacks against houses of worship or facilities connected with different minority religious groups in the past two months.  This should be a concern to every American.  [Updated 8/19/12.  We track such incidents against mosques here by state, and with links to articles about the incidents] 

It is clear that once bigotry against one religious community becomes commonplace and even mainstream, other minority communities also suffer from the effects of that bigotry.  The article Islamophobia & Anti-Semitism:  Everything Old Is New Again discusses the remarkable similarities in the bigotry directed at different communities using the same sorts of memes, and the terrible possibilities when that bigotry is not countered.  See Prejudice, Racist, or Violent Incidents at Mosques for a list of many more such incidents involving mosques.  The ADL collects information about anti-Semitic incidents, and SALDEF collects information about anti-Sikh incidents.  Although anti-Muslim incidents dominate this list, it is not surprising that other minority communities are also targeted.  Once bigotry is allowed to be freely expressed, it tends to spread.  As I said in a previous article about the spread of bigotry, and the responsibility of all faith groups to discourage bigotry: “If you take a stick and stir up a hornets nest, you can be pretty certain of the results, and there will be no way to control who gets stung.”

The terrorist attack on the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin is the most horrific incident to date, and many Sikhs and Muslims believe that the atmosphere of open Islamophobia may have been a factor. 

This week Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) said at a Town Hall meeting 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 publically, two mosques were attacked in his own state (one of them in his own district)?

The ADC issued a statement condemning Rep. Walsh’s statement as well as such statements by other government officials and said

Hate crimes such as these should not be ignored. Instead they must serve as a warning sign. Hate speech and rhetoric will only continue to add to the culture of violence, which will lead to more incidents and more attacks. ADC continues to call on all politicians and elected officials to change the national discourse, distance themselves from xenophobic rhetoric and put an immediate end to the culture of hate and violence.

This week, an article A Mosque is not like a Church or a Synagogue by Janet Levy was published on The American Thinker site, and it may shed some light on how the Islamophobia “meme machine” works.  And, on how those memes once spread can lead to a situation where even our elected representatives buy into such anti-Muslim propaganda, and then give it a veneer of respectability by repeating it. 

A few quotes from the article should give any decent human being pause

— The marked proliferation of mosques in the U.S. since 9/11 should raise a red flag for Americans.
— Accelerated mosque-building - in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Staten Island, Brooklyn, and Ground Zero, New York; and Santa Clara and Temecula, California, to name a few - carries significance beyond the mere construction of a collection of Muslim houses of worship. It represents yet another orchestrated effort to oust traditional American values and replace them with Islamic practices, laws, and beliefs.
—Mainstream media’s predominant point of view is that any opposition to mosque-building represents a blatant unwillingness to integrate Muslims into American communities. This view disallows the possibility that such objections represent appropriate, reasoned responses to an attempt to destroy America from within and supplant its culture with a supremacist, totalitarian, and misogynistic ideology.
— Rather than the benign construction of a house of worship, the building of a mosque represents one in a series of beachheads in the interconnected network of bases to teach the skills of jihad, advance Islam, and impose sharia in due time.
— Rather than allowing the building of more mega-mosques in the United States, we should halt existing projects and seriously consider shutting down existing mosques to prevent the proliferation of an ideology that has publicly pledged to destroy America.

The author spits out anti-Muslim propaganda to “prove” that “they” are not like “us”, don’t share “our values”, don’t (or can’t) believe in separation of Church and State, are not allowed to question any doctrine, have no concept of free will, and are the enemy within.  Within this article, the author gets in every common anti-Muslim talking point that she has picked up, and repeats them as if they are facts.  She quotes Islamophobic “experts” like Steven Emerson and John Guandolo, and dubious “studies” to “prove” that her position is reasonable and not simple bigotry.

The Islamophobia echo chamber is regularly pushing such memes, and this “mosques are not places of worship” meme is simply the most recent.  In the article Islamophobia has consequences (written well before this current wave of anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Arab, anti-Sikh incidents), I summarized the most common of these:

Muslims are more dangerous than others, their very religion is what causes them to be this way, and it can’t be reformed.  Muslims are liars and you can’t believe anything they say.  There may be some good Muslims but it is almost impossible to tell which are the good ones, most are some sort of a fifth column just waiting their opportunity to “go Jihad” or impose Sharia.  Muslims don’t respect the Constitution, they want to undermine the foundations of Western civilization, they want to take away everything we hold dear.  Those that aren’t engaged in violent jihad are just holding back until they become a majority, and since they breed like rabbits this “demographic jihad” could happen sooner than people think.  Minarets are a statement of supremecism.  Mosques are not places of worship like churches and synagogues, but incubators of jihad, and most are teaching radical ideas.  Where there are mosques, there are Muslims, and where there are Muslims, there are problems.  Muslims have never made any original contributions to civilization, they will rape your daughters, and convert your sons.  Islam is a death cult, Islam is evil, Islam is diametrically opposed to everything we believe in, Islam is not a religion, Islam is a disease, and Muslims are infecting our society with that disease.  Europe is rapidly becoming Eurabia and America is next.  Unless we do something to stop them, our civilization is doomed.  There is no such thing as Islamophobia, as a phobia is an irrational fear, and fear of Islam is completely rational.  It isn’t Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.

...  This villification of Muslims, Arabs, and Islam has become relentless.  Repeating the same things over and over again has been shown to create credibility. False logic seems plausible, and even outright lies repeated often enough begin to sound like the truth.  Sadly, these stereotypes have replaced knowledge with ignorance and misperception, and ignorance fuels hatred of what we don’t know much about.  Muslims are consistently portrayed as “the other”, not part of us, and imposible to understand, and so not worthy of tolerance.  Just the mention of Islam creates a feeling of fear on the part of many non-Muslims because of what they have heard so often and causes them to believe that this fear is reasonable.  There is a propaganda industry involved full time in a demonization of Islam and Muslims, and this lead to seeing Muslims as suspect and Islam as the source of every negative action. 

If Muslims are so different from other human beings that there can never be any motive for any action they undertake other than Islam (no Muslim criminals, no insane Muslims, no political, economic, social, or cultural motives for actions), if you can’t tell a moderate from an extremist, and even the moderates are dangerous, then that really does seem to limit the options to either criminalizing Islam, interning and/or deporting Muslims, or carrying out a Crusade or “final solution” against Muslims. 

When this demonization has led to a situation where even politicians and elected representives can make anti-Muslim statements, and even suggest that Islam might not be deserving of the protection of the Constitution, or that Muslims should not have the same rights as other citizens, or that there should be a loyalty test for Muslims in government, that America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization, this simply legitimizes the Islamophobes claims.  The ignorant think “You see, even our elected representatives know that Muslims are the enemy”.

Why does it come as a surprise to anyone that someone who really believed that everything they hold dear, their nation, their culture, their religion, their way of life were under attack from a group of people (Muslims) who are dangerous, devious, and relentless, would attempt to strike out in any way they saw as possibly saving themselves, their families, their culture, their nation.  Anders Breivik, for example, has said that yes, he did carry out the massacre at Utoya, but it wasn’t a crime because he had no choice if his country was to be saved.

This is the only direction that the arguments of the professional Islamophobes lead.  For them to claim that nothing they have said could have had any influence at all on the actual criminal actions of someone who took such ideas seriously is disingenuous, hypocritical, and a cowardly refusal to face up to any responsibility.  Yes, a criminal is the only one ultimately responsible for violent actions, but there are certainly degrees of responsibility.  And, to attempt to claim that words have no effect would mean that there is no such thing as propaganda, and that it is impossible for propaganda to have any effect.

...  What exactly do they think individuals that they have convinced that they are in imminent danger of an “Islamic takeover” might do to defend themselves against the Muslim menace? 

We have free speech in this country, and as long as they don’t break the law, these folks can say whatever they want.  That doesn’t mean that we can’t speak out against what they are saying, or that we can’t identify their speech for what it is — hateful, bigoted, evil, dangerous, Islamophobia!  In fact, we are not only free to counter hate speech, but it is a moral obligation to do so.

Whether it is extremist Muslims like Al Qaeda calling for a Jihad, or extremist Christians who want to bring on Armageddon (since they’ll be “raptured” they won’t have to suffer) and are calling for a Crusade, or extremist Jews who put Israel above Judaism.  There are religious extremists everywhere who are using the internet and other modern means to get their message out more widely than ever before possible.  Somehow we have tone down the hate rhetoric and find a way to live together in peace.

Who is Janet Levy, the author of this particular article, and why should her opinion on mosques hold any weight?  I had to search to find a brief bio on PJ Media “Janet Levy, MBA, MSW, is an activist, world traveler,and freelance journalist who has contributed to American Thinker, Full Disclosure Network, FrontPage Magazine, Family Security Matters and other publications. She blogs at http://www.womenagainstshariah.com 

So, someone who has business and social work degrees, and absolutely no background in religious studies, but is able to write a complete sentence becomes an “expert” on Islam because they have memorized a few anti-Muslim memes.  Why would anyone care about her personal and bigoted opinion about a religion she despises, except to validate their own prejudices.  Because she was saying what a certain segment of the population wants to hear, her baseless propaganda article was picked up by hundreds of sites, spreading the message widely. 

The internet gives any bigot an opportunity to spread their poison, in this case, the What everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims, and possibly the author of this most recent article will gain enough notariety to join the flourishing Islamophobia Industry, who might even begin introducing her articles with a bio introducing her as “the world renowned expert on mosques”.

The Islamophobia Industry sees non-existent Muslim jihad plots everywhere, and uses them in an effort to marginalize the civic participation of Muslims.

The Islamophobes consistently promote the what everyone “knows” lies about Islam and Muslims.   They generalize specific incidents to reflect on all Muslims or all of Islam.   When they are caught in the act of making up or distorting claims they engage in devious methods to attempt to conceal the evidence.  When they are called out for their bigotry, they claim that they are 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 it is a term made up purposefully by Muslims in order to deflect attention from the fact that according to the Islamophobes there is no such thing as Islamophobia. 

Anti-Mosque incidents have become commonplace.  An anti-Sharia mania is sweeping states across the country.  As Wajahat Ali has pointed out in a discussion of the Sikh Temple tragedy:

...  This extremist violence and fear-mongering does not exist in a vacuum. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported the highest number of hate groups ever recorded in U.S. history, with nearly 1,018 active groups. Furthermore, anti-Muslim hate groups have increased 300 percent in the last year, and the FBI reported a 50 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. The reasons for the record rise in hate groups are due to the faltering economy, changing racial dynamics in America leading to a minority-majority country, and the election of Barack Hussein Obama.

However, the reality according to the latest studies is that American Muslims help law enforcement, are more likely to reject violence than any other U.S. religious community, and nearly all American Muslims have no sympathy or loyalty for Al Qaeda.

Yet facts and evidence do not detract a paranoid fringe from indicting American Muslims or anyone who looks “Muslim-y,” including Arab American Christians, Iranian Jews and Sikh Americans.

The cynical and deliberate baiting of ignorance, racism and Islamophobia by political players was exposed in an investigative report I worked on last year, “Fear Inc, The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” produced by the Center for American Progress.

Elected representatives and military and government officials who seem to have forgotten that they represent “WE the people” have openly called for acts like: purging Muslims from the military or requiring Muslim soldiers to be openly identified as Muslims, considering excluding Muslims from the protection of the First Amendment of the Constitution, requiring a special “loyalty test” for Muslims to serve in government, excluding Muslims from entering some States of the U.S., declaring war on the religion of Islam? Can you imagine making such statements involving any other minority? Rep. Walsh is only the most recent of our elected representatives to jump on the anti-Muslim bandwagon.  The GOP particularly seems to have declared war on American Muslims.  There has been a series of worrisome examples.  Rep. Peter King’s radicalization hearings focusing only on the Muslim community and ignoring any other threats to our security despite clear documentation that other threats were greater.  Rep. Michele Bachmann’s witch hunt against American Muslims serving in government.  Rep. Sue Myrick’s hearing on the Muslim Brotherhood, and witch hunt against Muslim interns on Capital Hill.  State Senator Greg Ball’s hearing calling on known Islamophobes as witnesses.  See The GOP has declared war on American Muslims for many more examples. The following are those Elected Representatives who have so consistently engaged in anti-Muslim rhetoric that they have their own backgrounder pages in our Who’s Who of Islamophobes:  
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) **
Herman Cain, Presidential candidate ** 
Newt Gingrich (R-GA)   **
Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-TX) **
Rep. Peter King **
Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) **
Rick Santorum Former R-PA Senator, Presidential Candidate **
Rep. Allen West, (R-FL)  **

For the most part other Elected Representatives and Government Officials, even those who are not actively participating in Islamophobia have been silent.  The list of elected representatives who have questioned Islamophobia includes almost no one from the GOP.  Gov. Christie and Susan Collins, (R-Maine), and now Sen. John McCain are notable exceptions.

As I wrote in an article on Michele Bachmann’s recent letters

When individuals are elected to public office, they take an oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

It would seem that some of our elected representatives had their fingers crossed when taking this oath.

All of these folks really need to study the Constitution of the United States to remember that the Congress represents “we the people”, all of us, not just some particular segments of the population. 

American Muslims are a part of “we the people”.  We are Americans.  We are not going anywhere.  And, I believe that it is well past time that other Americans begin standing up against this demonization of Islam and Muslims.  It would be nice to know that this sort of bigotry is not shared by most of our fellow Americans. 

As the MPAC statement on this incident said: The congressional leaders making these accusations along with Bachmann have breached the trust of the public they serve. These members must be held responsible by the media and their constituents. If there was any offense that would warrant a resignation from a member of Congress, it seems that we have reached that point.

It is well past time for all of our Elected Representatives and Government Officials to STOP demonizing American Muslims and fanning the flames of hatred, and to actively counter such bigotry.  It is time to actually represent ALL OF THE PEOPLE of the U.S., not just SOME OF THE PEOPLE.  Those who don’t step up to counter this rampant bigotry are not simply avoiding getting involved, they are clearly telling the American people that they do not consider Muslims to be equal citizens.