September 23, 2019 | 90° F

JAWED: Attacks on mosques violate right to religious freedom


Opinions Column: If Not Our Own, Then Someone's


malaikajawed

In the recent trial regarding a Minnesota mosque bombing in 2017, it was brought to the forefront that the point of the attack was to "scare Muslims into leaving the U.S." The explosion, resulting in fire and considerable damage, occurred right before the morning prayer. Even though none were injured, the attempted attack terrified the community.

There is often a misguided association of certain groups of people including Muslims, immigrants, undocumented immigrants and refugees. Though there is a potential for overlap in the terms, none of them are exclusively dependent on each other. But the polarized politics of today allow for the terms to be used interchangeably, often resulting in misconceptions that further fester Islamophobia.

Some misconceptions: All immigrants are not Muslim. All Muslims are not immigrants. Most immigrants are not here illegally. A refugee is actually a political status that is selectively given to people only when the government agrees to take them in.

A day after the guilty pleas of two Illinois militia members in accordance with the Minnesota attack, three members of a Kansas militia were sentenced to a total of 81 years in prison for plotting to bomb Somali and Muslim communities in Kansas.

This attack was scheduled to be executed the day after the presidential election in 2016. The timing and boldness of the plan can potentially be attributed to the anti-immigration rhetoric waged by President Donald J. Trump. This militia, "the Crusaders," had been under the FBI's radar for months, during which time there were discussions of "rape as a weapon, arson, execution-style killings and shooting their enemies with arrows dipped in pig’s blood," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

FBI moved in and arrested members of the militia following an undercover assignment, and the attack never actually happened. But details of the organization's goals were listed in a manifesto.

This group wanted to encourage people to "come together as a people and nation and not just demand but reinstate our Constitution ... standing up for the Constitution is not domestic terrorism," according to the manifesto.

Ironically enough, domestic terrorism is defined as involving "violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States," according to the Legal Information Institute (LII). This is exactly what the Crusaders were planning on doing. In addition, the definition further includes acts that appear to be intended to "influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion," according to the LII. This, as mentioned in the manifesto, is what they are doing. "With this document, we are going to attempt a 'forced wake up call.' American people, you have to wake up while there still might be time to stop our government from totally selling this country out," according to the manifesto.

Radical accounts of xenophobia were followed by the encouragement of fulfilling these "duties as an American, as a citizen, a veteran or a public official," according to the manifesto.

The defense attorney in the case presented a request to "take into the account the divisive political atmosphere in which the men formed their plot to blow up a mosque and apartments housing Somali immigrants in the meatpacking town Garden City, about 220 miles (355 kilometers) west of Wichita, on the day after the 2016 election," according to The Washington Post.

The fact that the normalizing of fear of Muslims in America was even presented as an actual argument in court is an affirmation of the growing public embrace on expressing Islamophobia.

Mapped data illustrates the nationwide anti-mosque activity. In addition to overt acts of violence against Muslims, "existing and proposed mosque sites across the country have been targeted for vandalism and other criminal acts, and there have been efforts to block or deny necessary zoning permits for the construction and expansion of other facilities," according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Malaika Jawed is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore. Her column, "If Not Our Own, Then Someone's," runs on alternate Fridays. 

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Malaika Jawed

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