Attacks against U.S. Muslims spike during Ramadan
The ruins of a mosque in Joplin, Missouri, smolder after a fire August 6.
August 18th, 2012
02:20 PM ET

Attacks against U.S. Muslims spike during Ramadan

By Yasmin Amer and Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - To mark the end of Islam's holiest month, Iftikhar Ali will head not to a mosque but to a convention center guarded by law enforcement officers.

That's because this month, during Ramadan, the mosque in Joplin, Missouri, burned to the ground. Its rubble smoldered for two days as a shocked Muslim community came to terms with what had happened.

"I think there are a few people who don't like anybody," Ali said. "They don't like a different color than their color or different religions."

Ali, who is the president of the Joplin mosque said the congregation rented a convention center so people would have a place to pray and celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of fasting for Ramadan.

Authorities are still investigating the mosque burning but suspect the fire was intentional. In July, a surveillance camera caught a man throwing an incendiary device onto the building that damaged part of the roof.

Ahead of Eid, Ali said he contacted the police and sheriff's department. They are sending extra officers Sunday.

It's that way across America, after a spate of violence at Islamic centers in recent weeks that included a homemade bomb and pigs parts.

At least seven mosques and one cemetery were attacked in the U.S. during Ramadan, according to groups that track such incidents.

"This is unprecedented in its scale and scope," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the civil rights and advocacy group, Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He said Muslims have not been under attack like this since the backlash after the September 11 attacks and the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing when it was assumed the work of Islamic extremists.

Just Thursday, Ahmed Rehab, the head of the council in Chicago, received a call from a young man visiting his father's grave at Evergreen Cemetery. Someone had desecrated several Muslim graves.

The Prophet Mohammed's name was taken in vain and, a black marker scrawl on a tombstone screamed: "raghead," a derogatory term for Muslims that stems from head coverings such as  turbans and kaffiyas.
A few days earlier, police arrested 51-year-old David Conrad and accused him of firing a pellet gun at a mosque filled with 500 people in Morton Grove, southern Chicago suburb.

No one was injured but worshipers said one of the bullets flew only inches above a security guard's head, according to CNN affiliate station WGN.

Conrad is a neighbor and had previously spoken out against the expansion of the mosque. He was charged with four felonies.

In a third Chicago-area incident, worshipers at an Islamic school in Lombard heard a loud noise outside of the building during night prayers.

They then found a 2-liter soda bottle filled with acid. Police identified it as a homemade bomb.

No was injured in that incident, either, but on the heels of the carnage at the Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee, and the burning of the Joplin mosque, Muslims in the United States were fearful.
The temple shooter died and his motives may never be known. But he was linked to white supremacist groups and Hooper said many people felt the Sikhs were mistaken for Muslims because of their turbans and beards.

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a new mosque opened earlier this month after more than two years of community protests, legal hurdles and vandalism. The board of directors planned for extra security.

When worshipers bow their heads in prayer Sunday, someone else will be scanning the room.

"Yes, we are very concerned because we have been the subject of vandalism, arson, bomb threats, intimidation, bullying," said Saleh Sbenaty, a board member of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
"You call it," he said. "Every single act of intimidation, you know, was actually inflicted upon us."
Hooper, the spokesman for the Islamic Council, said Muslims in the United States have been asked to exercise caution. The council released a tip sheet on security: know your emergency responders, post observers, report threats, install surveillance cameras.

Hooper said anti-Muslim rhetoric has been building for years, especially from groups formed specifically to fight against Islam in the United States.

"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," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such groups.

"Earlier anti-Muslim groups tended to be religious in orientation and disputed Islam's status as a respectable religion," the center said.

Hooper, for one, believes there's an "Islamophobia machine working out there."

"Eventually and inevitably, it's going to have an impact on the tiny minority of people willing to carry out acts of violence," he said.

Rehab of CAIR's Chicago office also blamed the spike in incidents on government officials who he said were involved in fear-mongering.

He cited statements made by Republican congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois, who warned Americans that "there is a radical strain of Islam in this country" and that radicals are "trying to kill Americans every week."

Justin Roth, Walsh's chief of staff, said that the lawmaker's comments were taken out of context and that Walsh is troubled by attacks on any people based on their religion.

Nevertheless, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee blamed Walsh for the homemade bomb incident.

"It is not a coincidence that after the remarks by Rep. Walsh were made that there was a homemade bomb directed at an Islamic school …" the committee said. "The facts are clear - By proclaiming to the public that 'Muslims are trying to kill Americans every week,' Walsh raised suspicion of the American Muslim community and incited fear."

There were other troubling incidents this month:

- In Hayward, California, police arrested two teens and charged them with committing a hate crime after worshipers said the boys threw lemons at them during prayer.

- In Ontario, California, pig legs were left on the property of an Islamic Center. Police still do not have information on who was responsible for the act, which was particularly offensive during Ramadan because practicing Muslims consider pigs unclean.

- In North Smithfield, Rhode Island, a surveillance camera outside the Masjid Al-Islam mosque showed a suspect breaking the building's sign and two vehicles later fleeing the property.

- In Oklahoma City, vandals defaced the Grand Mosque with paintball guns. Those inside feared the shots came from a real gun.
In Joplin, the torched mosque's 90 congregants invited 300 other people to join them Sunday for Eid.

"I still feel secure," said Ali, the mosque president, though he knows a pall has been cast by all the attacks.

He said the attacks on his community are instigated by a few ignorant people. He came to these shores from Pakistan 23 years ago and still believes in the principles of this nation.

"This is un-American," he said of the mosque fire. "I'm not afraid of any neighbors. I feel more secure here in America than anywhere else in the world."

He said all Muslims have a right to practice their faith without fear.

On this Eid, that may not happen in some houses of worship in the United States.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story quoted a statement from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee that incorrectly said the site of an apparent anti-Muslim incident is in the political district of U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Illinois. The school where the incident occurred currently is in a district adjacent to Walsh's.


Filed under: Faith • Islam • Ramadan • United States • Violence

soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. Edward

    @natalie Rose

    OK I wont argue with anything you stated except for this.

    None of them I would argue were really devout followers of Islam. but ill play the numbers game with you.

    1. Half a million dead muslims dead in Bosnia by christians. Its a fact. Go to any historical account and you will find that over half a million dead in Bosnia because they were muslims. Christians wanted them out.
    2. Afghan? over 4.2 million muslim dead. Americans have paid off whole families for the so called accidental death of civilians.
    3. Iraq over 2 million dead. Pleaes read number 2.

    That isnt th ewhole historical list. Now lets count all your 19 post and tell me if it equals to the only 3 that I posted.

    Let me say tihs though..christians dont kill muslims unless they arnt christian. Muslims dont kill christians if they are real muslims. With that being said please I dont deny that the world has problems but dont just focus on one group. Look at the bigger picture. Do you blame blacks for crime? Or Jews for having all the money?

    May 6, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  2. Natalie Rose


    A lot of Americans have become so insulated from reality that they imagine that America can suffer defeat without any inconvenience to themselves..
    Pause a moment, reflect: These events are actual events from history..
    They really happened!!!
    Do you remember? Gee...I didn't know this...did you???
    1. On 6 June 1968, Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed by a DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    2. On 5 September 1972 at the Munich Olympics, 11 athletes were kidnapped and brutally massacred by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    3. On 4 November 1979, the US Embassy in Iran was taken over and 66 Hostages were held captive for 444 Days by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    4. During the 1980's scores of Americans were kidnapped in Lebanon by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    5. On 18 April 1983 the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    6. On 23 October 1983 the U.S. Marine Corps. Barracks were blown up and destroyed, killing 241 Marines by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    7. On 12 December 1983 the U.S. Embassy was bombed by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!.
    8. On 7 October 1985, the cruise ship Achille Lauro was hijacked and a 70 year old American passenger was murdered and thrown overboard in his wheelchair by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    9. On 14 June 1985, TWA flight 847 was hijacked at Athens and a US Navy Diver (Robert Dean Stethem) while trying to rescue passengers was tortured and murdered by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    10. On 21 December 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed, killing 259 people on board and 11 on the ground by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    11. On 26 February 1993, the World Trade Center was bombed for the “FIRST” time, killing 6 and injuring 1,042 by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    12. On 7 August 1998, the US Embassy in Kenya was bombed Killing 212 and injuring over 4000 by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS OF ISLAM!
    13. On 7 August 1998, the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania was bombed, killing 11 and injuring 85 by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS OF ISLAM!
    14. On 12 October 2000, the U.S.S. Cole was blown up killing 17 US Sailors by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    15. On 11 September 2001, four airliners were hijacked; two were used as missiles to take down the World Trade Centers and of the remaining two, one crashed into the US Pentagon and the other was diverted and crashed by the passengers killing over 3000 Americans by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS OF ISLAM.
    16. In 2001, the United States began combat operations in Afghanistan with 1,935 dead and 17,025 wounded against DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!.
    17.On 23 January 2002, reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and BEHEADED by DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWERS of ISLAM!
    18. On 5 November 2009, Major Nidal Hasan, a DEVOUT MUSLIM FOLLOWER OF ISLAM killed 13 and wounded another 32 AMERICANS in a Massacre at Fort Hood Texas!
    19. On 9 August 2012, an United States Soldier, Army Pfc. Naser Jason, a MUSLIM and DEVOUT FOLLOWER OF ISLAM, was convicted of collecting bomb-making materials for what he told authorities would be a "massive attack" on a Texas restaurant full of AMERICAN SOLDIERS was sentenced Friday to life in prison.

    And now we can add the attacks on our Embassy's and the Death of our Ambassador !

    September 13, 2012 at 11:31 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.