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2012: Another hard year for American Muslims

By       Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali     Permalink
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- A woman tells police she shoved a man to his death off a New York subway platform into the path of a train because she hates Muslims and thought he was one.

- A former Marine from Indiana admits that he broke into a mosque in Ohio and set fire to a prayer rug because he wanted revenge for the killings of American troops overseas.  

- New York Times says the 9/11 attacks have led to what's essentially a separate justice system for Muslims. In this system, the principle of due process is twisted and selectively applied, if it is applied at all.

- In the spirit of interfaith, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), a leading civil advocacy group holds its annual convention at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California amid fierce criticism of the church by Islamophobes .

These episodes reflect the dilemma of the seven-million strong American Muslim community which remains under siege more than 11 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York Trade Center and Pentagon.

On December 29, the American Muslim community was shocked at the horrendous murder of Sunando Sen, who was pushed by a women to his death on the tracks of a New York subway station because she thought he was Muslim. "I pushed a Muslim off the train tracks because I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers I've been beating them up," Erika Menendez, 31, told police. She was charged with second degree murder as hate crime. India-born Sunando Sen was raised as Hindu. The murder of Sen at a New York Subway Station of Queens comes only weeks after Pamela Geller placed hate-ads targeting the Arab and Muslim community in subway stations across New York.  One of the ads insinuated that Arab and Muslims are "savages" and another ad has an image of the World Trade Center exploding next to a quote from the Quran.

Sen's murder is a clear example of how hate speech can lead to and incite violence against Arabs, Muslims, and those perceived to be Arab or Muslim.  American Arab and Muslim civil advocacy groups and hundreds of diverse coalition partners, have been warning public officials about the impact the ads can have against community members.   Pamela Geller is recognized as being at the core of a group promoting intolerance of Muslims and Arabs in America. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that monitors the hate movement in the United States, calls her "the anti-Islam movement's most visible and flamboyant figurehead." 

Annie Robbins and Alex Kane of Mondoweiss reported: "After this news broke, Twitter was aflutter with people pointing to Pamela Geller as one culprit pushing anti-Muslim sentiment in the city.". Geller's role in promoting anti-Muslim sentiment of the sort that leads to Islamophobic hate crimes should not be in dispute. But what should also be highlighted is how New York City's own police force has promoted anti-Muslim bigotry time and time again, from surveillance of Muslims that places the whole community under suspicion to training officers with an Islamophobic flick."   "This crime appears to be the latest manifestation of New York City's Islamophobia. This time, it cost a life" they concluded.

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Hate speech and rhetoric continue to add to the culture of hate and violence and lead to a dramatic surge of violent activity and harassment directed at places of worship. In a climate of increasing fear-based rhetoric, we have seen a rise in hate crimes not only against American Muslims and but also fellow Americans perceived to be Muslim. On August 5, 2012, a gunman killed six people at a Sikh temple south of Milwaukee and critically wounded three others, including a police officer. The gunman was later identified as Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran with reported links to the white supremacist movement. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States tripled in 2011.The SPLC also reported dramatic expansion in the radical right groups.

Exponential rise in the U.S. anti-Muslim hate groups

Alarmingly, anti-Muslim and anti-Islam rhetoric has fomented discrimination, hate and intolerance against the Muslims and prompted the rise of anti-Muslim groups. According to Southern Poverty Law Center (SLP) the number of anti-Muslim groups tripled in 2011, jumping from 10 groups in 2010 to 30 last year. In a special investigative report released in March 2012, the SLP said:

"Anti-Muslim hate groups are a relatively new phenomenon in the United States, most of them appearing in the aftermath of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Earlier anti-Muslim groups tended to be religious in orientation and disputed Islam's status as a respectable religion. All anti-Muslim hate groups exhibit extreme hostility toward Muslims".Anti-Muslim hate groups allege that Muslims are trying to subvert the rule of law by imposing on Americans their own Islamic legal system, Shariah law. Anti-Muslim hate groups also broadly defame Islam, which they tend to treat as a monolithic and evil religion. These groups generally hold that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion."

Mosque attacks common nationwide : The anti-Islam and anti-Muslim rhetoric has created a hostile climate for the Muslims that resulted in discrimination, hate crimes and attacks on their religious places.   On December 19, a former Marine from Indiana admitted that he broke into a mosque in Ohio and set fire to a prayer rug because he wanted revenge for the killings of American troops overseas. Randy Linn pleaded guilty to hate crime charges, saying he'd become enraged after seeing images of wounded soldiers in the news. On December 10, a Cypress (Texas) area mosque has filed police and hate crime reports after members of the Islamic Outreach Center-Cypress found a dead pig on the mosque deck. Members found the slaughtered pig during their evening prayer time, and they believe its appearance was no accident. On August 6, a mosque in Jolpin, Missouri, was burned to the ground in the second fire to hit the mosque in little more than a month. A fire reported on July 4 has been determined to be arson.

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Campaign against building of new mosques : In the post-9/11 America, it has become difficult to build new mosques/Islamic institutions or expand the existing places of worship which became frequent target of hate attacks.

In October last, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a civil rights investigation into the rejection of the planned Abu Huraira Islamic Center in St. Anthony, Minnesota. St. Anthony was the fourth mosque opposition incident in Minnesota in the past year.   In February, the Michigan Islamic Academy (M.I.A.) filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Pittsfield Township, saying it violated federal law by denying a zoning change that would allow construction of a 360-student school. On March 21, A Southern California mosque filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the small suburban city of Lomita engaged in religious discrimination when it rejected an application to rebuild and expand the worship facility.

Concerned that prejudice rather than genuine zoning issues might be at work, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened 28 cases nationwide involving local denials of mosque construction applications since 2000. Of the 28 cases, 11 have resulted in full investigations and four remain open, according to The Hour online.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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