A Marine who hated Muslims went to a mosque to plant a bomb. His intended victims ended up saving his life

Editor’s Note: This article is part of CNN’s Undivided series, which chronicles how Americans of very different backgrounds have found common ground. In this series, which runs through the midterm elections, we profile unlikely friendships between people of differing ages, races, religions and cultures.CNN — 

As soon as some members of the Islamic Center of Muncie saw the man coming toward them, they knew he was trouble.

He was a big guy with broad shoulders, marching toward their mosque with his head down and his face flushed red from what looked like anger. It was Friday at Muncie Islamic Center in Muncie, Indiana, and the mosque was filling with people who had come for afternoon prayers. As an outsider with a USMC tattoo on his right forearm and a skull tattoo on his left hand, he stood out.

His name was Richard “Mac” McKinney, and he was there not to worship but to destroy. He was a former US Marine who had developed a hatred toward Islam during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. His fury deepened when he returned home to Muncie to see how Muslims had settled into what he called his city, and even sent their children to sit next to his daughter at her elementary school.

Unable to contain his anger, he went to the Islamic center that day in 2009 on what he saw as his final mission. He was going to plant a bomb at the mosque in hopes of killing or wounding hundreds of Muslims. He was on a scouting mission to pick a location to hide his bomb and to gather intelligence that would validate his assumption that Islam was a murderous ideology.

“I told people that Islam was a cancer; and I was the surgeon to cure it,” he says.

But when McKinney entered the mosque, he encountered a form of resistance that he had not planned for. Something happened that day that would change him in a way he never expected.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN

Albuquerque Welcomed Muslims. Then Four of Them Were Killed.

Amid a citywide homicide spike, officials believe the recent deaths of four Muslim men are connected, leading to fear in a place where many immigrants and refugees had felt at home.

l

ALBUQUERQUE — Tahir Gauba attended funerals on Friday for two members of Albuquerque’s largest mosque, victims in a spate of apparently targeted killings that have shaken this Southwestern city, which in recent years has welcomed a growing community of immigrants and refugees.

Afterward at the mosque, Mr. Gauba ran into Naeem Hussain, a 25-year-old from Pakistan. “Naeem asked me, ‘Brother, what’s happening in Albuquerque?’” said Mr. Gauba, 43, who also came to New Mexico from Pakistan. “I told him, ‘It’s crazy right now, don’t leave your house if you don’t have to.’”

Hours later, Mr. Hussain was also dead, shot in a parking lot. It was the third killing of a Muslim man in recent weeks, and the fourth since November.

Naeem Hussain was the third Muslim man killed in recent weeks, and the fourth since November.
Naeem Hussain was the third Muslim man killed in recent weeks, and the fourth since November.Credit…

The killings, which law enforcement officials believe are connected, have raised alarm in a city that the authorities had sought to shape into a haven for immigrants and refugees, including hundreds who resettled from Afghanistan in the past year, since the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence there.

The possibility that someone could now be targeting Muslims, in a city already reeling from a harrowing spike in murders, has many in Albuquerque asking how this could happen.

One of the victims, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, moved from Pakistan to attend the University of New Mexico. He had become president of its graduate student association before going into city planning. Another, Aftab Hussein, 41, worked at a local cafe.

Naeem Hussain, the 25-year-old who was killed on Friday, had started his own trucking business and become a U.S. citizen just weeks earlier. The recent killings were preceded by the fatal shooting in November of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, a Muslim immigrant from Afghanistan, who was attacked outside the grocery store that he owned with his brother.

“There are recent arrivals who are fearful, and there are people who are U.S.-born Muslims who are also are on edge,” said Michelle Melendez, director of the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion. “The victims are everything from professionals to students to working-class people.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Seven Prominent Sites That Illustrate Islam’s History and Future in the Chicago Area

d you watch PBS’s The Great Muslim American Road Trip? (It’s still available to stream for free.) The three-part series follows a young Muslim couple as they explore the history and experience of Muslims in America on a cross-country road trip that began in Chicago, where they met with Maryam Ali, the daughter of Muhammad Ali. The boxer was one of the most prominent Nation of Islam members in the country, and he was a major force behind the establishment of the Masjid Al-Faatir mosque in Kenwood.

That’s obviously just one of many mosques and prominent Muslim sites in the Chicago area, which has been a center of Muslim movements that catered to African Americans as well as a new home for Muslim immigrants from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world. The Washington Post called Chicago “ground zero in [a] U.S. Muslim renaissance” in 2013, due to the city’s wealth of energetic Muslim organizations and one of the “nation’s largest and most diverse” Muslim communities, which it numbered at around 400,000 people.

Here are seven important Muslim sites in the Chicago area that illustrate both Islam’s rich history here and its vibrant future.

Al-Sadiq Mosque

Al-Sadiq Mosque in Chicago's Bronzeville. Image: Google MapsThe Al-Sadiq Mosque in Bronzeville was commissioned in 1922 and is one of America’s oldest mosques. Image: Google Maps

It can be argued that the first recorded mosque in America was in Chicago, on the Cairo Street exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. But, while it had an imam and calls to prayer, it was mainly meant for tourists and was disassembled after the Fair.

But the Al-Sadiq Mosque in Bronzeville, commissioned in 1922, also has a claim to being one of the oldest mosques in the country. Its existence stems from a 1920 visit to Chicago by Mufti Muhammad Sadiq, an Ahmadi Muslim missionary. The Ahmadiyya sect originated in South Asia, and reached out to Black Americans who rejected Western Christianity as a manifestation of white supremacy before the Nation of Islam existed. Chicago served as the national headquarters of the movement until 1950.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PBS (CHICAGO)

Why a Presbyterian Elder Defended Muslims Building a Mosque in Middle Tennessee

Eric Treene has gone to court to defend Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and people from other minority faiths for more than 25 years. If you ask him why, he points to the Bible and the Westminster Confession. Treene, an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, is motivated by his faith to defend religious freedom—especially the freedom of those he disagrees with.

Treene was a lawyer for Becket and then, for nearly 20 years, special counsel for religious discrimination in the civil rights division of the United States Department of Justice. He developed and oversaw the enforcement program for the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Since leaving the federal government, Treene has taught the First Amendment at Reformed Theological Seminary and Catholic University and continues to litigate discrimination cases as a senior partner at Storzer and Associates in Washington, DC. This spring, Treene was honored by the Freedom Forum as a “champion of free expression.”

He spoke to CT about the problem of religious discrimination in America and why it’s so important that Christians advocate for religious freedom.

You’ve spent a lot of your career defending religious land use. Why do government officials in America today oppose religious land use?

Usually it’s because they’re zeroed in on developing commerce. A lot of what you see is the demands of the marketplace steamrolling religion.

One of my early cases, for example, was a church that had very carefully gathered several plots of land at a key intersection, but the town wanted Costco to have that spot. The town tried to use eminent domain to seize the property to build a Costco.

Is it because they hate churches? No. Again and again, what we see is discrimination against places of worship not so much out of animus but because they would rather have a commercial property that’s generating tax revenue.

There’s a very powerful economic engine in our society that often trivializes faith. The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) is one way churches can push back against that.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY

How ‘Multiculturalism’ Became a Bad Word in South Korea

A mosque dispute in a conservative city has forced some South Koreans to confront what it means to live in an increasingly diverse society.

DAEGU, South Korea — Inside the dimly lit house, young Muslim men knelt and prayed in silence. Outside, their Korean neighbors gathered with angry signs to protest “a den of terrorists” moving into their neighborhood.

In a densely populated but otherwise quiet district in Daegu, a city in southeastern South Korea, a highly emotional standoff is underway.

Roughly 150 Muslims, mostly students ​at the nearby Kyungpook National University, started building a mosque in a lot next door to their temporary house of worship about a year ago. When their Korean neighbors found out, they were furious.

The mosque would turn the neighborhood of Daehyeon-dong into “​an enclave of Muslims and a ​crime-infested ​slum,” the Korean neighbors wrote on signs and protest banners. It would bring more “noise” and a “food smell​” from an unfamiliar culture, driving out the Korean residents.

The Muslim students and their Korean supporters fought back, arguing that they had the right to live and pray in peace in Daegu, one of the most politically conservative cities in South Korea. “There is a difference between protest and harassment,” said Muaz Razaq, 25, a Ph.D. student in computer science who is from Pakistan. “What they were doing was harassment.”

Park Jeong-suk, who lives next to the proposed mosque, surveying the site from her balcony. Construction is on hold as both sides take their cases to court. 

The fault line between the two communities here has exposed an uncomfortable truth in South Korea. At a time when the country enjoys more global influence than ever — with consumers around the world eager to dance to its music, drive its cars and buy its smartphones — it is also grappling with a fierce wave of anti-immigrant fervor and Islamophobia. While it has successfully exported its culture abroad, it has been slow to welcome other cultures at home.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Common prayer: when churches become mosques

Presbyterian minister, a Pentecostalist pastor and a Sunni imam come to worship in the same place. It’s not the start of a joke: this is literally what happens at my local church in east London which, strangely, now encompasses a mosque. It was in danger of being closed, but instead the walled church complex has been partitioned, with a chunk of it sold off to Muslims while the main church building remains the home of two different Christian denominations. The site serves as a sanctuary for followers of rival creeds, a kind of suburban Temple Mount.

The shared use indicates an unlikely chapter in the life of a once-renowned institution, founded in 1642 when Protestant nonconformists met in Stepney amid civil war. The then Wycliffe Chapel ministered to generations of poor east Londoners. But since relocating to Ilford, the congregation has dwindled to about two dozen parishioners. The other churchgoers who meet there are followers of a black pastor, who struggles to fill the pews. There’s no trouble filling the mosque, with queues stretching to the end of the street on Fridays.

The conversion of churches into mosques, potentially a radical reconfiguring of our urban geography, has yet to receive any serious attention. The National Churches Trust reports more than 2,000 church closures over the past decade — a period in which weekly church attendance decreased by a fifth — but it’s unknown how many of these buildings are now mosques.

But even if there are just a few, the historical symbolism is immense. In conflicts between Christendom and Islam, usurping enemy places of worship marked the consummation of conquest. Byzantium was definitively lost when the largest church in the world, Hagia Sophia, became a mosque in 1453. The bitterness of that memory still endures, and flared up last year when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan controversially reclaimed Hagia Sophia for Muslim worship, drawing criticism from the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, Pope Francis and various Orthodox church leaders.

People take part in the Eid al-Fitr prayer outside the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque (Getty Images)

The use of former churches here in Britain for Muslim worship has not become a flashpoint between Christianity and Islam in the same way. An online petition against this trend, lodged to parliament in 2013, secured just three signatures (out of a target 10,000) and attempts to stir up outrage have failed. Most Christians would probably recognise that the problem is secularisation, not Islamisation. The British Social Attitudes Survey has charted the decline of Christians in the UK from a majority in 1983 to little more than a third today. Most Britons now identify with ‘no religion’ and view faith negatively, two-thirds regarding religion as a cause of conflict in society.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE SPECTATOR (UK)

Study finds the American mosque increasingly a melting pot of Islamic traditions

(RNS) — The American mosque is becoming more American. At least according to Ihsan Bagby, who has authored a report for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding based on a a new survey of American mosques. The report, conducted every 10 years, found American Sunni mosques are increasingly a melting pot of traditions, blending various schools of Islamic jurisprudence or madhabs.

In many ways this pluralistic approach indicates a return to tradition. Even, for example, in regard to the roles of men and women. Findings in the report suggest the American mosque is reviving certain leadership positions for women in the mosque that, while common in the earliest days of Islam, have fallen out of practice.

RELATED: New initiative seeks to get Muslims to the golf course

“American mosque leaders lean toward an understanding of Islam that adheres to the foundational, textual sources of Islam (Qur’an and Sunnah) but are open to interpretations that look to the purposes of Islamic law (i.e., looking to the spirit and wisdom of the law) and modern circumstances,” the report said.ADVERTISING

The ISPU study builds on direct interviews and a standardized questionnaire. The authors of the report spoke directly with hundreds of mosque leaders in conducting the research for the report. 

In many countries in the Islamic world, a single madhab dominates and while American immigrants from those countries maintain those practices, their mosques often mix traditions in order to appeal to a wide potential pool of congregants. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

Muslims and Christians come together to repair Denton (Texas) mosque

A GoFundMe started by a Denton church has raised close to $50,000 for the Denton Islamic Society damaged in the winter storm.

DENTON, Texas — Muslims and Christians are coming together in a big way, to help fund repairs at the Denton Islamic Society. The mosque suffered tens of thousands of dollars in damages by the winter storm.

“It makes you feel good about the community you live in,” said Faraz Qureshi, president of the board of the Denton Islamic Society.

The First United Methodist Church of Denton started a GoFundMe, which raised close to $50,000 in six days. 

“People really from all over the world are sending in donations,” Qureshi said. “Honestly it restores faith.”

The donations will pay for repairs to the building, but also so much more, as the outpouring of support comes from Christians and Muslims, but friends and neighbors.

FULL ARTICLE WITH VIDEO CLIPS FROM CHANNEL 8 WFAA

Friday service is meaningful to Muslims. This East Lansing (Michigan, USA) mosque brought it back with precautions.

mosqueThe Friday congregation prayer and sermon is the worship service every practicing Muslim looks forward to at The Islamic Center of East Lansing.

Many often took time off work and school just to attend the service. Then the coronavirus pandemic halted the Friday service and many other in-person activities at the mosque in March.

“People look forward to it each week. It’s equal to Sunday Mass,” explained Thasin Sardar, an Islamic Center board member. “We decided to suspend services before the governor enacted the statewide lockdown. Knowing how rampant infection was going to be, we erred on the side of caution.”

Last Friday, the Islamic Center resumed its most important service after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer amended coronavirus restrictions for indoor and outdoor gatherings. The mosque complied by holding two outdoor prayer services, each limited to 100 people.

The gatherings were scheduled an hour apart from each other.

Face-mask-wearing attendees, who were spaced 6 feet apart, gathered in the mosque’s parking lot while listening to the sermon of Imam Sohail Chaudhry.

“To see the people there — you could see a desire and hunger to get back to normal as much as we can, which we are still far away from,” Chaudhry said. “It was a great feeling, but there was sadness and grief we can’t do it inside the mosque due to restrictions. I had a mixed feelings, personally.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM LANSING STATE JOURNAL 

Muslim leaders: Vandals smashed out windows at new Warren (Michigan) mosque

349db462-7f6a-4dfd-bc62-8c7044a427b7-Warren_mosque_windows

A new mosque in Warren on 10 Mile Road was vandalized, Muslim leaders said.

The Al Ihsaan Islamic Center, also known as Ideal Islamic Center, was opened a few months ago by immigrants from Bangladesh in what was previously a Lutheran church. On Friday afternoon, someone smashed several windows of the mosque with a hammer, according to the imam, Muhammad Islam.

A piece of the hammer broke off and fell inside the mosque, Islam told the Free Press on Monday. He speculated that if the hammer had not broken, more of the mosque might have been vandalized.

He said that a neighbor has video footage showing the person who attacked the structure driving in a car outside the mosque.

Warren police did not comment on the incident. A police lieutenant referred phone calls to Warren Police Commissioner William Dwyer; a message left with Dwyer’s office was not returned Monday.

“Because of increasing hate incidents targeting houses of worship and minority communities nationwide, we urge local, state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate this act of vandalism as a possible hate crime,” Dawud Walid, executive director of Michigan CAIR, said in a statement.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE DETROIT FREE PRESS