Responding to Violence

Tomorrow is the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr celebrated by Muslims to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.  On this day, Muslims throughout the world will pray and celebrate as they, collectively, break the fast that is the most recognized practice of Ramadan.  This year, though, the holiday has been marred by fear of potential violence.

Lost in the national coverage of November’s election, the Olympics, and the mass shootings that took place in Colorado, Wisconsin, and most recently in Texas, is a series of crimes committed against mosques, an Islamic school, and the private residence of a Muslim family.  The most shocking example of these crimes is undeniably the fire at the Islamic Society of Joplin, MO which completely destroyed a mosque on August 6.

So far, FBI investigators have been unable to confirm the fire’s cause, but it seems suspicious considering that the same building was targeted by an arsonist on July 4th, 2012.  The coverage of this fire resulted in an indiegogo campaign that, as of this writing, has raised over $380,000 and has 34 days remaining.

However, more acts of violence committed between August 3rd and August 16th have caused the Council on American-Islamic Relations  in Washington D.C. to issue a safety advisory to Muslims and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago has acted similarly as reported at HuffPo Religion.  These other acts–at least the ones that I’m aware of–are as follows compiled from this list as well as other sources:

  1. On August 3, lemons were thrown at a mosque in Hayward, CA during prayers in the fourth act of vandalism against this specific mosque in 2012.
  2. On August 5, a sign was vandalized and half of it was stolen at Masjid Al-Islam in North Smithfield, RI.
  3. On August 7, pig legs were thrown at the proposed site of a mosque in Chino, CA.  As you may know, Muslims are forbidden to eat pork making this particularly heinous.
  4. On August 10, an air rifle was used to shoot at the Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove, IL during prayers.  About 500 people were reported to be inside at the time of the shooting.
  5. On August 12, a paintball gun was fired at the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City in Oklahoma City, OK.  Imam Hassan Ahmed is quoted in the linked article as saying, “And you know the only concern now we have is the upcoming holiday on Sunday…. We are expecting over a thousand people to worship here and celebrate the end of Ramadan.”
  6. Also on August 12, a bottle of acid was thrown at the College Preparatory School of America, an Islamic school, during evening prayers.
  7. On August 15, a firebombing took place in Forest Park, FL at the home of a medical professional named Aziz Ahmad.
  8. Finally, on August 16, hateful graffiti was found at a Muslim cemetery in Evergreen Park, IL.  The linked article has images of it.

The above list does not include the shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin that killed seven and injured others.  While not technically violence against Muslims, Sikhs have seen an increase in violence since 9/11 and it is believed that this is due to their distinctive style of dress and the mistaken assumption that all those who sport long beards and turbans must be Muslims.  Circle Sanctuary is collecting funds for the Oak Creek, WI Sikh community.

It is clear from the locations that these events are unlikely to represent a series of coordinated acts against American Muslims; by which I mean to say, I don’t think there’s a single organization behind them.  However, I do think that it is telling that in 14 days there were 9 acts of violence against Muslims and 10 against religious minorities when you include the shooting in Wisconsin.  These acts, quite literally, stretch from sea to shining sea at a rate of almost one per day.

Here at Hail Columbia we’ve had a lot of articles focused on groups or individuals whose words or actions would seek to limit the freedom to practice our Pagan religions.  But, if we only stand up to defend those freedoms when we are the ones under attack, then I don’t think we’re defending freedom, we’re only defending ourselves (which, it should be noted, is still probably a good thing, just not the highest good we could be doing).

Chris Stedman, the Assistant Chaplain and Values in Action Coordinator for the Humanist Community at Harvard University, said it better in a series of tweets last Thursday night:

We’re human.  We focus on ourselves and the people like us, our tribe, as Chris says above.  But for the last two weeks, it is not our tribe that has been the ones facing violence.  Events like these should not simply stand alone as tragedies but should also motivate us to act.  Find events in your communities at which you can stand in solidarity with others in opposition of violence against anyone.  Seek out opportunities to go to and learn about other religious and non-religious communities and to share ours with them.  And, if you can’t find anything, consider trying to organize something by calling local religious leaders and asking them to get involved.

Chris made one more tweet that I’ll use to close this article.  Think about it and think about what it calls us all to do and how it requires us to act.

This post was written by

David Dashifen Kees is a mild mannered web application developer currently living in northern Virginia. He’s been developing online systems since 1998 and, coincidentally, been a practicing Witch for almost as long. For many years he’s considered himself simply an Eclectic, but more recently he’s begun to think seriously about the integration of modern technology and modern magic on a path that he calls technocraft.

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