My wife, Sophia first alerted me to the damage that occurred to our local Islamic center. It happened as those who were gathering for the last prayer of the day were getting ready to pray, that the individual who had also committed several other acts of arson in the area threw a Molotov cocktail onto the roof setting it ablaze. Fortunately, no one was injured; but the Islamic center that was one of our families most beloved places of worship was severely damaged to where it’s been rendered unsafe. Along with the Islamic center a Catholic Church was also set ablaze by the same individual to the same effect. Leaving a whole congregation without a place to worship, without a safe place to call their spiritual home.
While the person who committed these horrible acts wasn’t charged with a hate crime, he is being charged with first degree arson. It’s a sigh of relief to the communities affected, but brings to light a larger problem we are facing in the US in terms of people’s beliefs and perspectives about those of other faiths. I remember back during the early years of the War on Terror, and the fear, anxiety and outright hate most people showed to Muslims and anyone who slightly resembled what was perceived to be Islamic. And as someone who had recently embraced Islam at that time, I was confronted with all forms of hateful weirdness. From debates on what Muslims believed, to how they practiced their faith, and whether they were supporters of Al Qaeda, and other terrorists groups. At that time I lived in Amarillo, Tx, and if you’ve ever had the unfortunate opportunity to spend some time there as someone of a non-Christian faith you were in for a rough stay.
I’m finding that living in the Pacific NW hasn’t completely erased the amount of Islamophobia I and other Muslims are exposed too. Yet it’s not just Muslims that are getting hated on. Any group it seems that isn’t of the mainstream white Christian blend tends to be looked at with a side-eye of uncertainty. It may not be the good ole ‘Texan’ Islamophobia and bigotry I encountered in the Panhandle, but it stings just the same. And as a Black Muslim there’s always the sprinkling of racism added in that’s too subtle to prove, but noticeable all the same.
So, it’s wonderful to see this whole series of incidents bring the Tacoma Muslim community closer with the communities of our Christian, Jewish and people of other faiths; and agnostic neighbors. In times like the ones we are currently facing, we need more communities to come to the aid of others as well as to share in what makes our communities unique.
Here’s a question Writing Elite families. Think of the diversity of your neighborhood, who lives there and have you met them?
In what ways have you explored the diversity of your neighborhood? What are some activities that are ongoing that you can attend and meet others safely? The more we step outside of our comfort zones and meet get to know people who don’t share our faiths or even worldview, how can we expect them to do the same? So these questions come with a little homework, if you’re willing. Find a safe, but diverse interfaith activity either in person or online and attend. Engage the host and others attending as much as you can, and then encourage others to do the same.
Let us know your thoughts, leave a comment below.