Florida Mosque attack result of anti-Muslim rhetoric
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Washington-based Islamic advocacy group, today said an attack Monday on a Florida mosque is likely the result of the current barrage of anti-Muslim rhetoric by right-wing commentators who paint Islam as a violent faith bent on world domination.
At 7:30 p.m. on Monday, a pick-up truck was driven into the front of the Islamic Center of Tallahassee. The man driving the truck, 51-year-old Charles D. Franklin of Tallahassee, was arrested and charged with burglary and criminal mischief. Authorities are treating the incident as a hate crime because of statements Franklin allegedly made after the attack.
A police news release issued today said Franklin was motivated by "hatred of Muslims" and told officers he could have blown up the mosque if he had put propane tanks on the front of his truck. He also said he tried to join the military in order to "kill Muslims." Associated Press also reported that a Bible wrapped in blue cloth was on the front seat of Franklin's truck.
Mosque officials told CAIR the damage to the mosque exceeds $3,000. The center had previously been vandalized on the night of September 11, 2001. CAIR is calling on local authorities to offer increased police protection for the mosque. The group has also established a fund to repair damage to the mosque.
"On a daily basis, our office receives reports of deeply offensive and defamatory attacks on Islam by right-wing commentators who go far beyond legitimate political or religious commentary to attack the faith of Islam. This constant drum-beat of vicious attacks will inevitably lead a small segment of the population to turn hate-filled words into violent deeds," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
"We urge opinion leaders and media professionals to publicly reject this type of hate speech. We also call on elected officials to avoid actions, such as recent 'fishing expedition' raids on Muslim homes and businesses in
Virginia and Georgia, that create a sense of fear in the Muslim community," added Awad.
Awad said the Middle East Forum's Daniel Pipes and author Steven Emerson are two of the worst purveyors of anti-Muslim hate. Pipes recently decried the teaching of Islamic history and beliefs in public schools. Muslims say Emerson, author of the new book "American Jihad," has a long history of defamatory attacks on their community and that his book is a prime example of deceptive anti-Muslim McCarthyism.
As some of the other numerous examples of recent Islamophobic rhetoric, Awad cited televangelist Pat Robertson's almost daily defamation of Islam, Franklin Graham's claim that Islam is a "very evil and wicked religion," Free Congress Foundation's William S. Lind's allegation that "there is no such thing as peaceful Islam," syndicated columnist Ann Coulter's call to invade Muslim countries and convert the populations to Christianity, and the "sarcastic" suggestion by an editor of the National Review that "nuking Mecca" would send a "signal" to Muslims. These statements have gone largely unchallenged by mainstream conservatives.
Just one day before the mosque attack, a columnist with the Charlotte Sun in Charlotte Harbor, Fla., wrote: "The American freedom of thought and speech -- which tolerates all religions -- infuriates devout
Muslims…About the only thing we can do is defend ourselves until Islam modernizes or self-destructs…"
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, CAIR recorded more than 1800 anti-Muslim incidents nationwide, including a number of murders.