Two incidents in New York this past week involved violence or threats against Muslims. Michael Enright (left), riding in a cab in Manhattan, asked the driver if he were a Muslim. When the cabbie said he was, Enright stabbed him in his face and on his arms and thumbs. Omar Rivera entered a Queens mosque, urinated on prayer rugs and cursed at worshippers.
While intoxication and mental instability have been considered in these cases, the anti-Muslim atmosphere in the country gives license to these attacks. Evangelical pastor Terry Jones plans to memorialize the September 11 attacks by burning Korans. In addition to opposition to the Islamic Center near ground zero, there have been protests across the country against the establishment of mosques. There have also been reports of the desecration of a California mosque and incidents of arson and vandalism against Florida mosques. Anti-Muslim rhetoric has become more acceptable through the pronouncements of Republican candidates in Florida and Tennessee.
The bitter irony is that such attacks disregard the positive role played by many mosques in America, according to a recent study:
A two-year study by a group of academics on American Muslims and terrorism concluded that contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism. The study was conducted by professors with Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina. It disclosed that many mosque leaders had put significant effort into countering extremism by building youth programs, sponsoring antiviolence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts. (PDF of study)