When news broke about the attacks at mosques in New Zealand, it felt horribly familiar to me. That’s because several years ago, I aspired to bomb a mosque, and I came close to doing it.
I’m a white American. I grew up in the rust belt, attended church camp, joined the Marine Corp after high school, and ultimately retired from the Army. I fought around the globe, including in the Middle East and Somalia. I decided my enemy was Islam. I’m proud of my service, but I’m not proud of everything I did. There comes a time when you’ve seen and done too much to let it go. After my final deployment, it seemed like vodka and my hatred for Muslims were what was keeping me alive.
So I devised a plan: Build a homemade bomb and set it off outside the Islamic center in my hometown of Muncie. In my hate-fueled mind, this was the final thing I would do for my country. I knew I would face the death penalty, but I didn’t care.
(CNN)Churches are opening their doors after mosques were told to close for security issues in the wake of the Christchurch, New Zealand, terrorist attacks. Mosques are receiving messages of solidarity and flowers. A fundraiser for the victims is nearing $400,000. And a UK-based national forum for Christian-Muslim engagement is calling on Christians to go along to Friday prayers at their local mosques — a call the archbishop of Canterbury endorsed.
These are only a few examples of how people and institutions are showing solidarity and offering help to Muslim communities all over the world after Friday’s shooting attacks on two Christchurch mosques that killed at least 49 people and seriously injured 20 others.
In some of the worst terror attacks and mass shootings of recent years, Muslim communities have stepped up to help in different ways. In the aftermath of October’s Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, for example, the Muslim-American nonprofit groups CelebrateMercy and MPower Change launched a crowdfunding appeal that raised thousands for the victims.
The arrests of three Rochester-area men and a 16-year-old who had access to homemade explosives and firearms sent shockwaves through the community, The Muslims of America said in a prepared statement. The small community has been dogged by allegations on right-wing websites that it is a terrorist training camp, and it was the target of a similar plot in 2015.
“It is beyond tragic that our nation continues to fester with Islamophobia, hate and religious intolerance,” the group said in a prepared statement. “To bring justice and properly deter similar terrorist plots against our community, we are calling for the individuals charged, as well as their accomplices, to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Authorities in suburban Rochester on Tuesday announced weapons possession and conspiracy charges against Brian Colaneri, 20; Andrew Crysel, 18; and Vincent Vetromile, 19. A 16-year-old student at Odyssey Academy in Greece, a Rochester suburb, was charged as an adolescent offender.
Films and television programmes are powerful mediums that are often taken for granted. They are major sources of entertainment and escapism, as well as often offering educational commentary on society, informing us about ideas and cultures we aren’t familiar with. We are often excited to watch the latest blockbuster summer releases, but if you are Muslim, that excitement also comes with a dose of apprehension.
Muslims see time and time again how carelessly or intentionally film and television makers bandy around stereotypes about Muslim communities. The ways in which Muslims are represented in films and in television are shocking. And this is why we need the Riz Test.
The Riz Test is defined by five criteria: If the film stars at least one character who is identifiably Muslim (by ethnicity, language or clothing) – is the character…
1. Talking about, the victim of, or the perpetrator of Islamist terrorism?
2. Presented as irrationally angry?
3. Presented as superstitious, culturally backwards or anti-modern?
4. Presented as a threat to a Western way of life?
5. If the character is male, is he presented as misogynistic? Or if female, is she presented as oppressed by her male counterparts? If the answer for any of the above is yes, then the film/show fails the test. Simple.
It should be easy for most films to pass, right? Wrong.
Prosecutors announced recently that Alexandre Bissonnette will go straight to trial on a slew of charges arising from his attack on a Mosque in Quebec City earlier this year. Despite killing six and wounding 19 in the brazen assault on worshippers, he is not charged with terrorism.
The announcement came on the heels of the Las Vegas massacre where 59 were killed and 527 injured. No terrorism charges there either, even though it meets the Nevada state definition.
No doubt that in both cases people were terrorized. Yet, the terrorism label is sparsely used.
Technically, because there no universally accepted definition, authorities can selectively apply it. Indeed, one person’s terrorist may be another’s criminal or freedom fighter. To many observers, the term appears to be reserved for “others.”
Stephen Paddock was not a terrorist, according to Las Vegas Sheriff, Joe Lombardo, who immediately labelled him a “local individual” and a “lone wolf.” Similarly, Bissonnette may have been “disturbed.” And of course, they were both “sick” and “demented.”
If they were Muslims, they would be “homegrown” terrorists committing “jihad” or “Islamic terrorism.” Mental health or personal issues would not have factored as much.
The Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed, entirely or in part, for political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause that has “the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public with regard to its security.”
There are plenty of reports documenting the Laval political science student’s journey from a moderate conservative to someone with far-right sympathies and connections, though this may not satisfy strict evidentiary requirements.
Wajahat Ali is a political commentator, Emmy-nominated producer, playwright and attorney.
“Children, if you’re a Nazi or a white nationalist, your president will stand up for you. If you’re Muslim? Immigrant? Black? Female? Sorry, you’re on your own. Perhaps work at Trump Towers or compete in Miss Universe in order to make it. Good luck!”
I never considered saying this to my two babies, but then again I never thought a president would make moral equivalences and excuses for white supremacist terrorism. After Tuesday’s news conference, we know that President Trump believes thereare “both sides” to the tragic violence in Charlottesville that left one woman dead and 19 injured. There are apparently “many sides” to the conflict, but only one man, James Alex Fields, a Nazi sympathizer, who was charged with deliberately plowing his car into a crowd killing Heather Heyer, an anti-racism advocate. In reviewing his response to the Charlottesville tragedy, it seems Trump has different standards for different Americans: one for his base, the alt-right, and another for Muslims and people of color.
According to Trump, there were “very fine people” in the weekend rally assembled by members of the alt-right. Some of these “very fine people” included white men and women in Old Navy and Gap clothes carrying Tiki torches bought at Walmart, many armed to the teeth, shouting anti-Semitic and racist slogans and lifting their arms in Nazi salutes. Even though they chanted, “The Jews will not replace us!”, I’m sure they’ll give a pass to the president’s Jewish grandchildren. These misunderstood men are nuanced, sophisticated and generous. They deserve careful restraint in denouncing them.
Muslim leaders have reacted to the attack in Finsbury Park, north London, with shock, condemnation and calls for security at mosques to be stepped up. Many also said the backdrop of the attack was rising Islamophobia.
Support also came from Christian, Jewish and Sikh leaders.
The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the attack near the Muslim Welfare House. Harun Khan, the MCB’s secretary general, said: “It appears from eyewitness accounts that the perpetrator was motivated by Islamophobia. Over the past weeks and months, Muslims have endured many incidents of Islamophobia, and this is the most violent manifestation to date.
“Given we are approaching the end of the month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid, with many Muslims going to local mosques, we expect the authorities to increase security outside mosques as a matter of urgency.”
Muslim communities wanted “transformative action … to tackle not only this incident but the hugely worrying growth in Islamophobia”, he added.
The Muslim Association of Britain said it unreservedly condemned “this evil terror attack” and called on police to increase security in mosques.
It demanded politicians “treat this major incident no less than a terrorist attack. We call on the government to do more to tackle this hateful evil ideology which has spread over these past years and resulted in an increase of Islamophobic attacks and division of our society, as well as spreading of hate.”