At an Arkansas Mosque a Vandal Spreads Hate and Finds Mercy

Abraham Davis was sitting on a thin blue pad on the concrete floor of Cell 3 in a jail in western Arkansas when a guard came around with stamped envelopes and writing paper.

The first person he wrote to was his mother. Abraham, just shy of 21, had barely spoken to her since his arrest a few days before, and he had a lot to explain.

It all began on a night last October when he borrowed her white minivan and drove to the home of a friend. They’d gotten drunk on cheap whiskey. Kentucky Deluxe. Abraham agreed to drive his friend to a mosque in town. His friend drew swastikas and curses on the mosque’s windows and doors while Abraham stood watch in the driveway.

The next day, the vandalism was all over the news. Abraham watched the reports over and over on his phone, his stomach curdling with regret.

Even now, as he was facing up to six years in prison for the act, Abraham could not explain why he had done it.

He had grown up in Fort Smith, a city of tall oak trees and brick churches that has the look of a faded Polaroid. His father, charismatic but violent, died when Abraham was 5, leaving him with a feeling of powerlessness so intense that he has been trying to conquer it ever since. “Most of my life I’ve spent trying to train myself to become something that’s too strong to be broken through,” he said. Life has teed him up for a fight, and he walks tilted slightly forward, as if someone is pulling him with an invisible wire.

As a poor student in the high school on the wealthier side of town, Abraham often felt like an outsider. He walked, not drove, hung out on playgrounds, not in restaurants. He got into a lot of fights. He did poorly in school, but he doesn’t remember his teachers seeming surprised. Expectations were low, and he bent to fit them. He slept a lot in class. At 18, he dropped out.

Fort Smith has two country clubs, several golf courses, a Talbots and a symphony orchestra. But a proliferation of pawnshops and a circuit court crowded with indigent defendants are reminders of the grinding poverty all around, in the rural areas of western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma.

For years, those divisions had been etched into the city’s geography. Poorer families lived on the north side of town and wealthier families on the south. Race followed the same pattern, with the south predominantly white and much of the city’s black population in the north.

But time has scrambled those old lines. Latinos came here to work in the poultry industry. Pho shops dot the city’s main drag, property of Vietnamese who began arriving as refugees after the fall of Saigon. R & R’s Curry Express serves deliciously spicy North Indian food at a Finish Line gas station.

Abraham Davis drove his mother’s white minivan to the mosque last October.
Pho shops dot the city’s main drag, started by Vietnamese who began arriving as refugees after the fall of Saigon. Other nationalities also call Fort Smith home now.
The tombstone of Hud Davis, Abraham’s and Noah’s biological father, in Fort Smith. Noah often visits; Abraham does not.
Hisham Yasin in the office of his used-car business.

Muslims from different countries came, too — some to study, some to work in the city’s growing medical industry. Many had money. Hisham Yasin did not.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

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Murfreesboro (Tennessee) mosque vandalism: Residents rally around Muslim community

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Community members numbered in the hundreds to gather in support of their Muslim neighbors during a vigil the day after the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was vandalized.

Numerous members of the crowd held homemade signs with the slogan, “Love thy neighbor,” while other signs had messages such as “Everyone be cool to each other” and “I Stand with my Muslim neighbor.” One family handed out long-stem roses.

“It’s my duty, it’s our duty, to decry senseless acts like these. Silence is not an option,” Abbie Wolf, director of community relations for the Jewish Federation of Nashville, told the crowd. “There is no place for such despicable and repugnant behavior or beliefs in our community.”

Early Monday morning, ICM members discovered vandals had spray-painted profanity on the mosque and its outdoor basketball court, as well as draped its door handles with bacon. The abuse sent shock waves through Murfreesboro’s Muslim community.

FULL ARTICLE FROM DNJ DAILY NEWS 

Muslims hold interfaith event to ‘re-tag’ Burlington mosque

2767280_GBURLINGTON — It happened again.

For the fourth time in five years, Munir Gandevia and the Islamic Center of Burlington were left reeling after another incident of vandalism, each one of them larger in scale than the last. Early Sunday morning members found an entire wall of the mosque covered with eggs and red spray-paint that read “USA.”

Gandevia and his congregation were disappointed.

“What happened was unexpected and unbelievable,” Gandevia, the mosque’s president, said Wednesday. “We are proud Americans, and this is our land.”

On Wednesday, about 50 town religious leaders, politicians, and community members gathered for a united interfaith event at the mosque, called “We are Americans.”

The purpose of the event was to “retag” the mosque’s eggshell-colored walls with positive messages that showed the Muslim community’s true inclusive nature, leaders said. Supporters signed posters of good will, and mosque leaders displayed 12 encouraging e-mails from area well-wishers.

But the event also served a different purpose, to reassert Burlington’s Muslim population as equal partners in their local community, state, and nation. The American Civil Liberties Union has tracked at least 75 anti-mosque incidents nationwide since 2006.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BOSTON GLOBE