War on Religion: Sikh Shooting and Missouri Mosque Fire Part of a Wider Problem in America


Imagine, for a moment, if that last week there were four separate attacks on Christian churches by Islamic radicals. Surely Kristen Stewart’s affair would be taking back seat. Heck, even the Olympics would be second-class news to the first major attacks on American soil by Islamic radicals since 9/11. Bill O'Reilly’s spit would be hitting you through your TV screen as Michele Bachmann's head did Exorcist-style loopty-loops. But this is exactly what happened to the Islamic and Sikh communities last week.

It started on Sunday, August 5, with the massacre at a Wisconsin Sikh temple where six people were killed by a white supremacist sporting Nazi and 9/11 tattoos. It continued on Wednesday when a Joplin, Missouri, mosque was set on fire for the second time in little more than a month and burned to the ground; attacked three times since its resurrection in 2008. On Friday, the attacks continued with a shooting at a Chicago mosque where nearly 500 people were inside worshipping. The violence concluded on Sunday, a week from the Sikh temple shooting, with an Oklahoma City mosque being vandalized. The inconvenient fact is that hate crimes against Muslim, Arab, and South Asian immigrants have been on the rise since 9/11. America’s “war on terror” has led to a war on Islam and other religions.

But most Americans are blithely unaware of this fact; opting instead to see themselves as the victims of radical Islam. For example, the majority of the mainstream broadcast media, excluding CNN, chose to largely ignore the attack on the Sikh temple. Coverage was brief and shallow, ignoring the motives and history of the shooter and refusing to acknowledge the rising trend in hate crimes against Sikhs and Muslims post 9/11. The Missouri mosque fire, shooting in Chicago and paint-ball attack in Oklahoma City received even less coverage.

The year following the attack on the World Trade Center, anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by more than 1,600%. Although they have decreased since then, attacks on Muslims and other non-Western minority groups (Arabs, Sikhs, etc.) are rampant.

The year 2010 was a particularly bloody year for American Muslims and Asian immigrants, including the firebombing of a Florida mosque and a brutal attack on a Bangladesh New York cab driver by a 21-year-old college student who thought he was a Muslim. Many attributed the increase in attacks to the controversial proposal to build the “Ground Zero Mosque.” But attacks on the American Muslim, Arab and Sikh communities continue today as does the Islamophobic rhetoric being spewed from political pulpits. On Friday, after two years of vandalism, arson and legal action, a Muslim community in Tennessee was finally granted permission to open the doors of its newly-constructed Islamic Center.

There is a well-known publication in the evangelical Christian community titled Voice of the Martyrs. The magazine spotlights and decries crimes being committed against Christians in other countries by religious (mostly Muslim) and political leaders. Perhaps America could use such a media voice for its Muslim Martyrs.