Yesterday, a Florida Muslim leader named Joshua Evans was at the center of an anthrax scare, when he received a “tissue stuffed inside with white powder” in the mail. Officials had him go to the hospital for testing, although it was eventually determined that the materials were not a “biological threat.” Still, Evans said that the intent was clearly malicious: “Someone does not wrap a tissue up with powder in it and stuff an envelope and send it to you with good intentions.” Evans used to be a Christian minister before converting to Islam, and he now often attracts controversy for criticizing his former religion. Watch a local news report on the incident:
What is disturbing about this incident is that it is the third high-profile anti-Islamic incident in the Jacksonville, FL area in recent months. As ThinkProgress reported in April, when University of North Florida professor and Fulbright scholar Parvez Ahmed went before the city council for confirmation to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, he had to answer irrelevant questions “about gay marriage, God, Islam and prayer in public places.” Another councilman mocked him for being Muslim and requested that he “say a prayer to your God” during a public hearing.
Last month, someone set off a pipe bomb at the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida. Although dozens of people were inside, no one was injured. The attack came just a few hours before Ahmed was to attend his first Human Rights Commission meeting. Both Ahmed and Evans worship at that mosque.
ThinkProgress spoke to Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesman Ibrahim Hooper about any possible connection between the three incidents. “I think it’s related to the overall rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in our society, unfortunately,” said Hooper. “You get a tiny minority taking extremist rhetoric and turning it into violent actions.” CAIR is also calling for federal officials to “investigate the [Evans] incident as a possible hate crime.” On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Jacksonville pipe bomb incident was a “top concern” for the Justice Department, which was treating it as a hate crime. (HT: Spencer Ackerman)