Anti-mosque protests on the rise, say Muslim advocates
By Liz Goodwin liz Goodwin – Wed Jul 21, 5:16 pm ET
Opposition to the construction of mosques has skyrocketed in cities and towns across the country, scholars and advocates of Muslim culture tell The Upshot.
Public protests against three planned mosques have made news in the past week: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin joined others in opposing the building of a mosque a few blocks from the World Trade Center site. Hundreds demonstrated against a proposed mosque in a small town in Tennessee (pictured above). And some residents of Temecula, California, are opposing the local Muslim community's plan to build a bigger mosque, saying it could become a hotbed of radical Islam.
"There is very little counter-thrust in the public debate, and the result is, I think, Muslims are becoming increasingly concerned about their security in the country," Zogby says. "This is a worrisome environment. Something's got to give."
Opponents of mosques feel freer now to openly object to the presence of a mosque in their community, says Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy organization.
Of course, opponents of mosques do not consider themselves bigots, and many are genuinely concerned that mosques may help produce homegrown terrorists. According to the Washington Post, 34 Americans have been charged by U.S. authorities since January 2009 with direct involvement in international terrorism. But in many of these case, it appears the suspects were radicalized via Internet contacts.
A pastor opposed to the proposed Temecula mosque reflected these fears of homegrown terrorism.
"There is a concern with all the rumors you hear about sleeper cells and all that. Are we supposed to be complacent just because these people say it's a religion of peace? Many others have said the same thing," Pastor Bill Rench told the Los Angeles Times.
Some opponents of the mosque in Tennessee have told local news outlets they think people will learn jihad inside the mosque's walls, though the local Muslim community has had a smaller mosque in the town for years without incident.
Several hundred people in Tennessee took to the streets of Murfreesboro last week to protest the local Islamic Center's 15-acre land purchase. They were met by a counterprotest of equal size.
"In Islam, a mosque means 'We have conquered this country,' " one man told a local CNN affiliate. "And where are they? They're in the center of Tennessee. They're going to say, 'We have conquered Tennessee.' "
A plan for a separate mosque was tabled in another town in Tennessee this year after public opposition, reports the Tennessean.
Ahmed visited the site of a mosque in Columbia, Tennessee, that had been burned down and vandalized with painted swastikas in 2008, while researching last year.
"The local tiny Muslim community was in a state of shock because most of them were born in America and had lived very happily in the small community," he says. "People say, 'Go back home,' and they say, 'Where do we go? This is our home.' "
I believe that Lewis Sinclair was right, when fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. They may come for the Muslims first, but they'll come for you eventually...