More incidents of Islamophobia

From TNI, in addition to those I’ve already mentioned, the following:

ONTARIO, California. Worshippers said two women threw the three legs onto the driveway of the proposed Al-Nur Islamic Center in Ontario shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday and sped away in a white pickup.

NORTH SMITHFIELD, Rhode Island. Muslims from a North Smithfield mosque are asking for extra protection after a sign outside their place of worship was vandalized over the weekend. North Smithfield police confirmed they are studying surveillance video recorded around 3:30 a.m. Sunday. That’s when a person was seen driving into the mosque’s parking lot and smashing the sign with a hammer.

MORTON GROVE, Illinois. The shots were heard by worshipers who were outside the mosque and were powerful enough to damage the building’s brick wall.

LOMBARD, Illinois. The prepertrators hurled a 7-Up bottled filled with acid at the school during Ramadan prayers.

OKLAHOMACITY, Oklahoma. Authorities are investigating after vandals fired paintballs at an Oklahoma City mosque. ‘A car pulled here in front of the main entrance and started shooting paintball guns, but at the time, I didn’t know it was that. I thought it was bullets they were shooting into the building.’

More on the Illinois incidents here. The Lombard incident took place in the congressional district of Joe Walsh who proclaimed last week that militant Islam was taking over the suburbs.

Combatting the Evil of Islamophobia

We don’t yet know a motive for the shootings at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek but the perpetrator’s links to white supremacist groups are becoming clear.

A day later, a mosque in Joplin, MO burned to the ground. Authorities have labeled that fire “suspicious” and it had already been targeted by two arson attacks (most recently on July 4). Glenn Greenwald writes about islamophobia in the US providing a catalog of recent attacks on American Muslims. He adds:

All of this reveals a broader truth: Islamophobia in the United States is pervasive and intense, and worse, is as ignored and tolerated as it is destructive. The greatest harm from these incidents is not to the property they damage. It’s the climate of fear that is created for Muslims living in the United States. As I’ve written about before, it’s hard to put into words how palpable and paralyzing this fear is in American Muslim communities. It’s infuriating to behold: perfectly law-abiding citizens and legal residents feeling — rationally and accurately — that they are subjected to constant surveillance, monitoring, suspicion, denial of basic rights, hostility and worse solely because of their religion and ethnicity.

This happens because overt expression of Islamophobia is, far and away, the most accepted form of bigotry in mainstream American precincts. Now and then, certain expressions of it are so extreme as to embarrass mainstream circles — Peter King’s Congressional investigation into The Enemy Within or the Michele Bachmann attacks on Hillary Clinton’s Muslim aide — and are thus roundly condemend, but more often than not, they are perfectly acceptable.

On Salon (where Greenwald writes) there are also articles about anti-Muslim bigotry in the Republican Party (Rep Joe Walsh of Illinois claims “Muslims are trying to kill Americans”) and a piece about Muslim leaders urging Mitt Romney to denounce Michele Bachman’s witch hunt.

I’ve been following the story about the efforts of a group to open a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN. It’s dragged on for years with arson and local groups trying to stop it, and politicians fanning the flames of hate. In the end, only the Department of Justice and the courts ensured the right of freedom of religion would prevail. More here on the anti-Muslim efforts in Murfreesboro. The community will gather there for the first time today for Friday prayers.

In spite of the prevalence of Islamophobia, there are also those who take stands against it. Greenwald highlights online efforts to raise money to replace the mosque in Joplin. In just a couple of days, they reached the goal of $250,000. In Missouri, Ashley Carter, student at nearby Ozark Christian College, has organized a rally in support of the Muslim community for Saturday, August 25.

When the media and our political culture fail to challenge purveyors of hate whether they are in the fringe or elected officials, it’s up to us to take the kind of stand that Ashley Carter has taken.

The Sikh Temple Shootings, Random Violence, and American Culture

Robert Wright writes about a perceived gap between our attention to the Aurora shootings and to the Oak Creek Temple:

At the same time, one responsibility of journalists and pundits is to see things in terms of their larger social significance. And it seems to me that the Sikh temple shooting, viewed in that context, is at least as frightening as the Aurora massacre. This was violence across ethnic lines, and that kind of violence has a long history of eroding and even destroying social fabric.

Riddhi Shah is thinking along the same lines:

On Sunday night I turned on the TV to find that only CNN was covering the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin that killed six. Fox News had a program about a prison in Latin America, and MSNBC, something else that was equally irrelevant.

Compare this with the coverage of an incident that happened only two weeks ago, the shooting that killed 12 people in Aurora, Colo. Networks devoted themselves round-the-clock to the attack: Who was the shooter? Why did he do it? There were entire segments dedicated (rightly) to covering the vigils and a community in mourning.

By the way, my google reader feed had no new items about Oak Creek this morning.

Francine Prose has a thoughtful reflection on evil in the wake of the Aurora shootings:

But if we no longer believe in Satan, then what do we make of our sense that something is wrong with the world, that a random malevolent shooter lurks in the schoolyard or the cinema lobby? Our collective disquiet about the mass murders of our time is intensified by the sense that they select their victims at random; that they have come from different backgrounds and harbor dissimilar grudges, and that we have failed to come up with an “explanation” for their actions, or a reliable template to help predict or avert an attack. And yet we remain reluctant to accept the possibility that evil is not a problem that can be solved or a question that has a solution. How do we reconcile our wish to prevent further violence and to protect ourselves and our families with the suspicion that, as those who believed and believe in Satan would argue, evil is an element in the universal order, an aspect of nature and of human nature, a force and a constant threat that exists—and will continue to exist—despite our best efforts to understand and eradicate it?


And she too wonders whether it’s the randomness of the shootings (and the white victims) that grab our attention:

The media’s preference for stories about (preferably white) American victims—as opposed to reports of violence further from home—helps persuade us it’s fine to feel that way: a natural human instinct.

Innocent citizens in Mexico are regularly being sprayed with bullets in the course of their daily lives. But we can’t quite imagine ourselves waiting in line at a clinic in Veracruz, whereas we might think: Hey, I almost took the kids to the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in my town! The number of Syrian civilians killed daily during the last months surely outnumber the dead in Colorado. But I haven’t seen Assad’s mug shot on a tabloid headlined “Face of Evil.” Am I not supposed to worry about blameless Afghan citizens killed by mistake during a drone attack? Why should intentional violence perpetrated by narcos, soldiers, dictators, or machines—and resulting in the accidental deaths of the innocent—seem less evil to us than the methodical picking out of random strangers in a move theater? Aren’t all such incidents variations, in a sense, on a single theme—the theme being the evil things that crazy or “sane” people will do to one another given the opportunity, license, and a weapon?

More on the shooter

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, he was a neo-nazi.

The Southern Law Poverty Center, a group that has studied hate crimes for decades, reported Monday that Page was a frustrated neo-Nazi who had been the leader of a racist white-power band known as End Apathy.


He bought the gun within the last ten days. NBC News observes:

Wisconsin has some of the most permissive gun laws in the country and had passed a law in 2011 allowing citizens to carry a concealed weapon.

‘Nuff said.

Lament and the Oak Creek Shootings

What can one say? Another mass shooting, this time in a Sikh Temple. It happened on a gloriously beautiful Summer day in Wisconsin. I heard the news just before attending a concert by the Isthmus Vocal Ensemble. As I listened, I was grateful for the power of music. It can convey beauty in the midst of great tragedy and evil. One of the pieces performed was Tim Kramer’s Lux Caelestis, which sets to music texts from five of the world’s religious tradition having to do with light. It was transcendent and in the day’s context, a reminder of what humans can aspire to.

Social media has made our response to such events even more immediate both in the way they affect us and in their encouragement of our immediate reaction in a tweet or a facebook status update. We often seek to explain such events, to put them in categories that we understand, so our horror is contained. It was the work of a mad man. If only we had reasonable gun control laws… But when we leap to such conclusions we often fail to confront the deeper horror and our own fears.

C. Christopher Smith has had a great deal to say about the importance of lament in the wake of the Aurora shootings and his words are even more powerful today:

Recovering lament as a practice of our faith involves, I believe, creating spaces in our congregations where we can share our pains honestly, grieve and bear them together, confess and discuss our complicity in causing these pains and eventually begin to imagine and enact ways of easing the pain. Creating conversational spaces in our faith communities where we can lament together in this way not only deepens our relationships with our fellow congregants, but also draws us deeper into the political life of our neighborhoods. Many times engaging the pains that plague our members involves dealing directly with the source of the pain, whether that be an abusive landlord, an employer that is trimming hours or benefits, failures of public transportation, etc. Maybe sometimes the pains we feel are selfish ones, inflicted upon ourselves out of greed, pride or some other vice, and we need a community that will speak truthfully to us and set us on a course toward healing, even if that journey might take us through deeper pain.

His blogging about lament is here