The Houston Fire Department is investigating an attempt to burn down one of the city's mosques after masked men used gasoline to try to ignite the building over the weekend. Prayer rugs at the back of the mosque were doused with gasoline, but thankfully the building did not catch fire, and the damage was confined to one room. The Texas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is asking the FBI to investigate the arson as a possible hate crime. The incident is just the latest in a string of attacks on American mosques since the death of Osama bin Laden.
Many conservatives responded to the terrorist leader's death by stoking broader fears about Muslims and sharia law, but the most extreme reaction came from far-right blogger and commentator Debbie Schlussel, who wrote, "One down, 1.8 billion to go...many of 'em inside U.S. borders." Such outrageous comments are not unusual for Schlussel, but unfortunately this time her statement reflected a more widespread outburst of anti-Muslim sentiment.
The first attack happened in Maine soon after President Obama announced that the Al Qaeda leader had been killed in Pakistan:
Unfortunately, the false association of Muslims and terrorism came up just hours after the brutal terrorist leader's life ended. Muslims in Portland, Maine, awoke that Monday morning to find their place of worship defiled with anti-Islam graffiti. The gray stone walls of the recently established Maine Muslims Community Center were desecrated with the spray-painted phrases "Osama today, Islam tomorrow" and "Long live the West."
Last week, a man in Louisiana left pork on the door handle of the Bossier Mosque in Shreveport so people would have to touch it to go inside. Muslims do not consume pork as they consider it unclean. The Northern Louisiana Jewish Federation denounced the vandalism as "psychologically...hurtful" and a spokesman for the Bossier City Police Department commented that the man did it "to intimidate the individuals at this location."
Muslims in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn have had to fight a frivolous lawsuit and thinly-veiled racism as they try to build a mosque in the neighborhood. The group opposing the mosque explained on their website, "The neighborhood residents are mostly of Italian/Russian/Jewish/Irish descent and will not benefit from having a mosque and a Muslim community center." Although a judge threw out the case, graffiti reading "He's Dead" went up at the construction site after bin Laden's killing. The local Muslim community had to explain the vandalism to their youngest members:
"My daughter saw that graffiti after Osama Bin Laden's death, and I had to explain it all to her. It's so sad that you have to do that," Diana Mohamed said.
She added: "I'm happy with the result [of the lawsuit]. Living with the protesters and hearing what they say, seeing those signs, the hateful looks, it's really bad, we just want to live peacefully."
Additionally, as ThinkProgress reported, two Muslim men on their way to a conference on tolerance were removed from an airplane after the pilot refused to take off with them on board. In the wake of bin Laden's death, a vast majority of Americans have reported a heightened fear of terrorist attacks, but it's American Muslims who have been threatened with increased hostility and attacks.
President Obama said when he announced the successful raid that "the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam," noting that, "bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims." American Muslims and Muslims around the world celebrated the news with the U.S. Many hoped that the terrorist leader's death would be a unifying event that lifted the stigma around the American Muslim community.