In communities across the country, Muslim Americans are under attack as radical conservatives are denying them the right to build their own places of worship. Here are a few examples:
— In Brentwood, Tennessee, Muslims planned to build the first mosque ever in Williamson County. After agreeing to numerous restrictions on how they would build their mosque so as to not offend the surrounding community — like not having outdoor speakers to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer — the Muslim community was finally able to get the Brentwood city commission to approve land to be used to build a mosque. Radical conservatives responded, and “through e-mails, blogs and word of mouth, opponents told friends and neighbors they were suspicious of the mosque and feared its leaders had ties to terrorist organizations.” After intense community pressure, the mosque’s builders decided last week to simply withdraw their plans. “There comes a time when you have to say, ‘We can’t do this anymore,” said Jaweed Ansari, a Brentwood physician involved in the mosque project.
— Two nights ago, the city council of Alpharetta, Georgia, voted unanimously to deny “an application by the Islamic Center of North Fulton to expand” their mosque. Alpharetta Muslim Parwaiz Iqbal protested the decision, saying, “If we are denied a decent place of worship, you might as well hang a banner here in downtown Alpharetta that Muslims are not welcome in this city.”
— In New York City, radical conservatives are attacking plans to build a mosque in a 13-story community center located two blocks from Ground Zero. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) joined the crusade against the mosque by saying it’s “very offensive and wrong” to build it, while regretfully admitting that it can’t legally “be stopped, however, because of the first amendment.” All of the right-wing outrage ignores the fact that innocent Muslim Americans, too, died on 9/11 — like Salman Hamdani, a police cadet and part-time ambulance driver who died “doing everything he could to help those in need” at Ground Zero. Last night, a Manhattan community board backed the proposal to build the Muslim community center there by a 29-1 vote.
In addition to being denied their places of worship, Muslim communities have been the victims of dangerous hate crimes. Last week, the Islamic Center of North Florida was rocked by an explosion, and police suspect that a pipe bomb was responsible. The Islamic Center is located in Jacksonville, Florida, and is attended by Muslim Human Rights Commission member Parvez Ahmed, who recently faced hateful remarks from a city councilman and area residents over his faith. Noting the lack of media coverage of the attack relative to the failed car bombing in Times Square, Matthew Yglesias observed, “Somehow this attack, despite its greater technical sophistication, hasn’t obtained nearly the same level of media attention. And I just can’t figure out why.”
The Washington Post noted Monday that the rise in anti-Muslim tensions has “prompted many Pakistanis who once had deep ties to the United States to look elsewhere for work, education and travel. It has also left some Pakistani Americans feeling uneasy in their adopted homeland.” “My uncle has been living in the United States for years,” said Akmal Abassi, an English language instructor and in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. “He still admires the American values of freedom and equality, but now it is much harder for him to convince people here at home.”
The Wonk Room’s Matt Duss notes that the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens has proposed a religious litmus test that Muslims should have to answer before they open mosques. Reflecting on the test, Duss writes, “Would Stephens, or anyone, dare propose a similar religious test for any other faith? What about asking Jews whether they condemn violence by Jewish settlers in the West Bank before they can build a synagogue somewhere? Or asking Christians planning a new church whether they will invite the input and participation of Christian gay and lesbian groups? You know, just as a ‘confidence-building measure’? Doubtful. It would be considered un-American.”