West St. Louis County Muslims have seen their share of hate crimes and discrimination in the years since 9/11.
In 2003, the , located on Weidman Road in front of Queeny Park, had its collection box broken into multiple times. Weeks later that same year, on two separate occasions, the Hindu Temple located less than a mile away from that Mosque was firebombed after the perpetrators mistook it for the Mosque.
Last year, a Muslim woman was refused service at the Mattress Firm store in Manchester because she did not uncover her face, after a manager told her “she needed to show her face for service,” according to a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article.
And earlier this year, the , located inside the Daar Ul Islam Mosque, after the
On Wednesday morning, which may include the August 6 burning of a Joplin, MO mosque.
The FBI is still investigating whether or not that fire was arson, but religious leaders here are already speaking out against what they believe is a trend of hate crimes against religious minorities that occur near election time.
“Usually the year of election, this rhetoric (against Islam) goes up,” said Ghazala Hayat, of the , during the press conference.
On Aug. 10, for example, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill), said in a town hall meeting that Muslim Americans were a "real threat that is much more at home now than it was after 9/11."
Other recent events against Muslims in America include:
- On July 4, the Mosque located in the outskirts of Joplin caught on fire in an attempted arson attack. The Mosque later burned to the grown on Aug. 6in a fire that the FBI continues to investigate.
- On Aug. 12, an acid bomb was thrown at a Muslim school in Lombard, Illinois.
- Also on Aug. 12, vandals shot paintballs at a Mosque in Oklahoma City.
- On Aug. 11, a man was arrested for firing with an air rifle while worshipers celebrated a ramadan prayer in Morton Grove, Ill.
- On Aug. 10, pig parts were thrown at the site of a future mosque in Ontario, Calif. (Islam forbids Muslims from eating pork.)
“When I heard about this press conference today, I wanted to be here in person to register the ACLU’s anger and dismay about the escalating violence against Muslims in our own community and across America,” said Brenda Jones, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, during the press conference. “I am here to declare that there are no second-class citizens in America and it is not open season on Muslims.”
Kirkwood resident Faizan Syed, executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in St. Louis, organized the press conference at the mosque in West County. Not only did he want to denounce the recent violence against Muslims, but also show the resilience of the community, he said.
Syed, who has been to Joplin to help the community after the mosque’s burning, said Muslims there were full of resolve and dedication and they will rebuild the mosque. A fundraising campaign has already raised nearly $400,000 for the rebuilding.
“The person who tried to burn down the Mosque on July 4th, he tried to make it a symbol that the Muslim community is unwelcome in Joplin, Missouri,” Syed said. “But because of the rebuilding effort and support across the country and the world, we have shown a bigger symbol, a greater symbol that the people of America and the world support what’s right, they support what’s just and they will not allow hatred to govern them or hatred to rule them.”
Meanwhile, there is a $10,000 reward offered by CAIR and a $15,000 reward by the FBI for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of a July 4 attack on the Joplin mosque or for more information in this latest fire.
You can check clips from Wednesday's press conference in the video section of this article.