Members of Rhode Island’s Muslim community have asked to meet with police and the FBI to request heightened security at their places of worship after the sign for a mosque in North Smithfield was vandalized.
Farid Ansari, president of the Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement and an imam at the Muslim American Dawah Center of Rhode Island in Providence, said Tuesday they are concerned because of the fatal attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Sunday and a suspicious fire at a mosque in Missouri on Monday.
“Hopefully, it’s just a simple case of vandalism, but we can’t be sure. Of particular concern is what happened within the Sikh community,” Ansari said. “We can’t just not pay attention to these types of things. We don’t know if they are connected or not.”
The incident at the Masjid Al-Islam happened early Sunday morning. Surveillance video showed a person walk up to the mosque’s sign, struggle with it then knock down a large piece of it, put it into a car and drive away, said North Smithfield Police Capt. Tim Lafferty. The vandalism was first reported by The Providence Journal.
Op-Ed: Such declarations by the news media and others has an insidious subtext: that there’s something wrong with being a Muslim in America.
Almost from the beginning of their coverage of the horrific and deadly shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, CNN and other news media went out of their way to send a message to the American public: “Sikhs are not Muslims.”
But what were we to make of that message? If the temple’s members had been Muslims, would the attack have then been justified?
We say we don’t endorse prejudice against one group or another, but for some reason we also want to make sure people know who the “we” and the “they” really are. CNN would probably say it was simply trying to clear up a common misunderstanding that, in this case, may have been shared by the gunman himself. Fair enough. The assertion that Sikhs are not Muslims is certainly true. Jains are not Hindus, and Mormons are not Methodists either.
WHO THEY WERE: Sikh temple shooting victims
But in the post-9/11context of a deadly act committed by an apparent white supremacist against a congregation that is largely ethnically South Asian — a congregation that includes bearded men in turbans — broadcasting the mantra that “Sikhs are not Muslims” takes on a far more insidious subtext: Don’t blame these people, it implies, for the unspeakable crimes of 9/11. It’s Muslims you want.
The media aren’t alone in conveying, however unintentionally, this sinister message. When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he responded to the inaccurate but surprisingly persistent assertion that he was a Muslim with this statement in a 2008 debate: “The facts are I am Christian. I have been sworn in [as a U.S. senator] with a Bible.”
A long battle over a proposed mosque in DuPage County is approaching a turning point, and although anti-Muslim sentiment and resistance to mosques in the Chicago area are hardly going away, Muslims appear to be winning this time.
The Muslim Educational and Cultural Center of America, or Mecca, wants to construct a 47,000-square-foot building in Willowbrook, one that includes a school, a recreational center and a 600-person prayer hall. The plan has been scaled back since a county committee rejected an earlier proposal in January, and the smaller building is considered likely to be approved by the DuPage County Board, which has the final say.
The tensions in DuPage reflect wide-ranging antagonism toward Muslim-Americans. Last year, local residents battled mosque proposals in Tennessee, Wisconsin, California and other states. There was a contentious nationwide debate over a proposed Islamic cultural center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan.
Opponents of an Islamic community center and mosque planned to be built near ground zero say it would desecrate hallowed ground. But suspicion has greeted proposed mosque projects in places less hallowed than ground zero — in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Sheboygan, Wisconsin; Temecula, California; and elsewhere.
This suggests that opposition to mosques is not driven only by sensitivity to the memory of terrorism victims, but also by a growing unease toward Islam, fueled by security fears.
A church in the state of Wisconsin has begun to host Muslim worshippers for twice-a-day prayer services. The Faith Presbyterian Church in Franklin City, Wisconsin has allowed Muslims to use their facilities for Fajr and Isha prayers, five days a week, with a nominal fee paid by the Islamic Center of Milwaukee. The initiative was taken after there were no nearby mosques or facilities to accommodate local Muslims. Commenting on allowing non-Christians to pray in the church, Pastor and Reverend Deb. Bergeson-Graham said: “I think we’re doing this, not because of what they believe, but because of what we believe.” She added: “It’s what Christ would have us do.”
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