Anti-Muslim voices becoming more heated in recent months
By Jeff Brumley
Imam Lateef Majied took to the pulpit at the Jacksonville Masjid of Al-Islam on Friday to remind the congregation what most of them already knew: that Ramadan was quickly approaching along with its requirement for fasting from food and drink in daylight hours. But there is much more to it than that, he added. The Muslim holy month that begins today to commemorate God’s revelation of the Quran, Majied said, holds a challenge for Muslims to live charitable lives as a way of proving their religion does not promote hatred of non-Muslims.
“My mom is a Christian,” Majied, an African-American, told close to 100 gathered for Friday prayers. “I don’t have hatred toward Christians. We have to shatter those myths. Muslims don’t hate Christians, Jews, white people.”
After the service, Majied said his message was in part a response to the recent increase he’s noticed in anti-Muslim outbursts and rhetoric seen around the city, nation and world. “You have a lot of demagoguery, playing on fear and emotion,” he said. “They [the opponents of Islam] ride that as much as they can.”
Majied isn’t alone in noticing that anti-Muslim rhetoric appears to be on the rise in mainstream American politics, if not consciousness.
The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are fueling the anxiety, as Americans read every day about their troops being shot at by Islamic insurgents, said the Rev. Tim Simpson, a Presbyterian minister and an adjunct religion professor at the University of North Florida. The wars, the economy and the theological, ethnic and sometimes racial otherness of Muslims create “a perfect storm of prejudice that’s sweeping over even normally sane people who otherwise wouldn’t think this way,” Simpson said.
There was a time when events like next month’s scheduled Quran burning by a church in Gainesville would have garnered little if any serious attention. But now it’s being mentioned by observers along with higher-profile events making headlines around the nation and the world, including:
- Ongoing, organized opposition to a proposed mosque near ground zero in New York City.
- Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, in campaigning for governor recently, described Islam as a cult whose members are invading America.
- Oklahoma voters will decide in November whether to ban Shariah law, an Islamic legal code whose contents are debated by Muslims.
- An organized but failed effort in April to block the appointment of a Muslim, Parvez Ahmed, to Jacksonville’s Human Rights Commission.
There’s a general consensus the shift in attitude began six months to a year ago, but there’s little agreement on why.
What is certain is it’s causing consternation among many Muslims and hope among some non-Muslims that the nation is finally waking up to what the latter describe as the internal threat it faces.
'That radical 2 percent’
“I’m very encouraged,” said Randy McDaniels, leader of the Jacksonville chapter of the anti-radical Muslim group ACT! for America. The group organized the opposition to Ahmed’s Human Rights Commission appointment. “In the last six months, we’ve seen a shift in attitudes. People are starting to realize who’s in control — it’s that radical 2 percent” of Muslims willing to use violence to spread their religion, he said.
Grass-roots groups like ACT! for America and the tea party movement are bypassing mainstream media to get the message out that Muslim elements, including some in the United States, have revealed through their own writings the need for religious conversion, by force if necessary, of American society.
While “the vast majority” of Muslims in America are peaceful and “want to assimilate,” he said, “I believe that people are waking up that there is a segment of the Muslim population around us that don’t want to assimilate.”
It’s that group, David Gaubatz said, that has him worried and has him actively sounding the alarm.