Anti-Muslim attacks rise in U.S.
June 29, 2005
On June 16 in Blacksburg, Va., a stack of Qurans was set ablaze and left at the front door of the local mosque.
In another, more vile incident on June 22 in Nashville, a copy of the holy book was torn, burned and covered with feces, and left in front of an apartment building where several Muslim families reside.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reports that anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment were up 50 percent between 2003 and 2004, with more than 1,500 such incidents reported in 2004.
CAIR attributes these incidents to "the lingering impact of 9/11 fears," and "a general increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric" by some Evangelical leaders and conservative commentators. These individuals cite isolated verses from the 600-page Quran out of context, and present their findings as evidence of Islam's purported evilness.
When the Ku Klux Klan wanted to intimidate and threaten African-Americans, they used to burn crosses in front of their homes and churches. These days, anti-Muslim bigots are trading in their burning crosses for burning Qurans.
Law enforcement, for its part, has done a decent job at investigating and prosecuting hate crimes against Muslims, as exemplified by the sentencing of a terrorist (non-Muslim) to 14 years in federal prison for attempting to firebomb the Islamic Center of El Paso, Texas, in 2004.
What is troubling, however, is the silence of our nation's leaders regarding the growing epidemic of Islamophobia in America.
In response to reports of anti-Muslim backlash after Sept. 11, President Bush responded forcefully, stating, "Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger don't represent the best of America, they represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior."
The president's brave words undoubtedly mitigated the backlash and saved American Muslim lives and property, and he should be commended for that.
But neither he, nor his administration, nor most members of Congress have spoken out against the wave of anti-Muslim sentiment that has risen since then.
In mid-May, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced a bill in the House that condemns "bigotry, acts of violence and intolerance against any religious group, including our friends, neighbors and citizens of the Islamic faith." Only 19 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives have co-sponsored the resolution thus far.
American Muslims had nothing to do with Sept. 11, and they have condemned terrorism over and over again as behavior that runs contrary to the tenets of their faith. But some people are so blinded by their anger or hate that they refuse to acknowledge the difference between their Muslim neighbors, doctors, teachers and classmates, and Muslim terrorists half a world away.
The genuine anger felt by many Americans -- Muslim Americans included -- since Sept. 11 cannot be discounted. But attacks against innocent Muslims, their houses of worship and their holy scriptures cannot be excused or tolerated. To do so would shame the honor of those who have died on the battlefields, both at home and abroad, in defense of our freedoms.
Raeed N. Tayeh is a Washington, D.C.-based political and media consultant and the author of "A Muslim's Guide to American Politics and Government". He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.