Friday September 21, 2012
Hate Crimes Against Muslims Escalate: Virginia
By Emily Jabareen
2012 Fall Intern
The recent attack on the Islamic Center (mosque) of the Shenandoah Valley, VA, garnered little media attention. The Associated Press reported on the incident the day of its occurrence, September 15th, just a few days after the bewildering and sudden outburst of violence that unfolded in Benghazi, Libya.
The outer wall of the center was smeared with graffiti, containing obscene language attacking Iraqis, as well as “This is America,” a reminder to the local mosque attendees that they are still perceived by some as outsiders in their own town. The windows of 30 cars surrounding Dar Al-Hijrah mosque, VA, were found smashed in the morning directly following the commotion in Libya as well.
The incidents clearly illustrate the tentative position many Muslims and Arabs still hold in America. In the wake of the horrific violence in Libya, American Muslims are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, attempting to construct semblances of normal life in a country that has cast them a leading role in an ongoing international struggle. On the other, attempting to define a community that is not hampered by representations of an extremist fringe.
This task seems more daunting when considering the recent escalation of hate crimes committed against Muslim communities across the country. Within the past two months over twelve such attacks were reported, ranging from the desecration of tombstones of Muslim locals in Chicago, to the burning of a mosque in Joplin, Missouri.
Repeated acts of vandalism were also reported. In North Smithfield, Rhode Island, the ‘Masjid Al-Islam’ Mosque was vandalized when a strangely exasperated man ran up to a sign decorating the front of the building and began to head-butt it, a performance that lasted for a few moments before he ran off with a piece of the sign in hand.
Similarly in Hayward, California, a group of adolescent boys continuously vandalized a mosque, throwing lemon and orange peels and eggs at it, among other colorful food products. Some incidents took on a more serious turn, such as the attack on a Muslim Education Center in Morton Gove, Illinois, where rounds were fired into the air at a crowd of 500 people.
The alarming increase of attacks is even more disconcerting given the corresponding increase in acerbic rhetoric and vitriol used in public political discourse to malign Muslims. Though it has been the policy of the previous and current administrations to create a clear and unequivocal distinction between the majority of Muslims, particularly US citizens, and extremism, not all public officials have followed suit.
Congressional representatives and former presidential frontrunners have gone on record deriding Islam as an inherently violent religion, such as Rep. Allen West, or accusing the administration of kowtowing to the demands of Muslim extremists.
Affectively, the rhetoric is both isolating, in that local Muslim communities are dismissed as existing outside the fold of the American norm, and alienating, through spuriously casting Muslim Americans as somehow definitively suspect. The rhetoric, unfortunately, also has the effect of delivering handsomely rewarding political dividends.
It is necessary, in the light of recent attacks, to fully consider the impact certain political discourses are having on our country, as well as the correlation between the recent increase in political rhetoric that is disparaging to Arab Americans and America Muslims, and the rise in attacks against such communities.
Though the individuals, who carried out the recent attacks against American Muslim communities do not represent the bulk of Americans by any stretch of the imagination, their actions must not be bolstered by sentiments spread in public political discourse. Divisive rhetoric that unfairly targets any group of people or that incites violence should be discouraged, particularly by our political representatives.
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