JOPLIN, Mo. — One simply has to type the words “mosque fires” into a search engine to determine how common fires like the one Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque are.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have tracked dozens of fires, firebombings and incidents of vandalism at mosques around the country over the past five years.
A few examples:
• A mosque in Queens, N.Y., was firebombed in January with worshippers inside. There were no injuries.
• An arson attack on a Houston, Texas, mosque was reported in May 2011.
• Construction equipment was set afire at the site of a mosque being built in Murfreesboro, Tenn., in August 2010.
• An Oct. 31, 2011, arson fire at a mosque in Wichita, Kan., caused an estimated $120,000 in damage.
• Closer to Joplin, someone in April 2011 burned three copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, and left a threatening letter near the entrance of the Islamic Center of Springfield mosque. The anonymous letter claimed that Muslims would “stain the earth” and that Islam wouldn’t survive.
The mosque had earlier been vandalized with graffiti.
An FBI agent last month said there have been positive developments in the Springfield case.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday called for state and federal agencies to investigate the Joplin mosque fire as a possible hate crime.
Joe Lieberman has always been a great pioneer for internet freedom. Last year, he suggested that the United States should implement an internet kill switch in the event of a cyberattack by taking its cues from China. Now Lieberman is calling for the world’s most popular search engine to censor material that could potentially be used to spread terrorist information.
Lieberman sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking the company to implement a system where users can report websites harboring terrorism and Google will remove them from their Blogger platform. Lieberman brought up the case of Jose Pimentel, who was recently arrested in New York for attempting to make a pipe bomb, and used the internet to do it! Lieberman gave Google some praise for banning any terrorist content from YouTube and allowing users to flag videos, but insisted they do more and implement a similar system on their search platform.
Dutch parliament member Samira Bouchibti has reacted to the release this month of Imhalal.com, a search engine which provides starred ratings of results according to their acceptability in Islamic law.
The PvdA (Dutch Labour Party) parliament member says that the new engine should not be used in schools, since it encourages discrimination of gays by filtering out search terms such as ‘homo’ and ‘gay’. She says young Muslims should also have access to information about sexuality and homosexuality. Bouchibti has asked the Minister of Education Ronald Plasterk (PvdA) to check whether ImHalal.com can be kept out of schools and other institutions which are funded by the government.
The site attracted more than 30,000 visitors in its first eight days, says Reza Sardeha of the AZS Media Group in the Netherlands. The developers explain that the search engine allows Muslims access to the internet in a safe and clean environment.
A newly launched internet search engine, Imhalal.com, enables Muslim web users to be spared from viewing offensive content online. The website will only return results that the engine rates as halal, approved by Islamic rules. The Imhalal website uses a star rating system. One or two stars count as a warning for the users, although they can still access the search result links. Three stars are given to search terms that are haram to such an extent that the search results will not even be displayed.
Spokesman Reza Sardeha of the Zutphen, Netherlands-based AZS Media Group told reporters that first of all the engine blocks sexually explicit search results. The group is regularly consulting with Islamic scholars to determine what else might be considered haram.
View the search engine here.
Finding a halal restaurant has become easier for Americans Muslims, thanks to a new phone application launched this month that makes dietary religious observance much simpler for Muslims eating out. Halalpal, an iPhone application that locates halal restaurants and eateries throughout the United States, has made restaurant eating while sticking to a halal diet much easier. The search engine is designed for Apple’s iPhone, and gives users a list of nearby restaurants with maps, contact information, price categories, and recommendations. We found people are reaching out for this service and this gave us the inspiration to create a special application for halal users,” said Rami Dodin, Halalpal’s founder, adding that the aim of any business is to tune in and respond to the needs of customers.