US Muslims seeking community in wake of attacks
By Michael Hernandez
FALLS CHURCH, Virginia (AA) – When a mosque in suburban Virginia became the target of a firebomb attack, faith leaders decided that rather than turn inward, it was the moment to embrace the local community.
The incident occurred just six days after Daesh-claimed gunmen attacked multiple sites in Paris, claiming the lives of 130 victims in mid-November.
As he recalls the attack on his mosque that closely followed, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the mosque’s outreach director, said the point of opening the mosque’s doors for an open Thanksgiving meal was to fight the irrational fears that fed into the attack.
“We have two choices,” he said. “Either we’re going to live in freedom, or we’re going to live in fear, and we know that this fear is irrational – that the person who threw the Molotov cocktail was unstable and afraid.”
“Why don’t you just let him in?” he asked himself rhetorically.
That kind of outreach may be crucial in thwarting rising distrust and anti-Muslim sentiments following the Paris attacks and on outside of Los Angeles in which a husband and wife killed 14 people at a holiday party.
According to the Pew Research Center, an individual who knows a Muslim or Muslims is considerably more likely to rate the group favorably.
Moreover, data from the research center shows that Muslims rank lowest in favorability among the wider American public, polling at just 40 percent – close only to Atheists at 41 percent.
The vast majority of other religious groups hover somewhere between 50-60 percent.
“The American public is largely uninformed about Islam and Muslims, but as much as they have formed opinions they tend to be fairly negative,” Pew senior researcher Besheer Mohamed said.
While the polling organization does not have data on the views of the American public after either the Paris or California attacks, a leading Muslim civil rights group is warning of a spike in anti-Muslim attacks and discrimination following the fatal tragedies.
“There’s a great deal of fear in the Muslim community right now as to what the future is,” said Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American Islamic Relations. “People are extremely fearful right now about what’s going to happen.”
The most recent information from the advocacy group, dated Nov. 24 – between the Paris and California assaults – warns of “unprecedented backlash” against Muslim Americans.
The organization said it “has received more reports about acts of Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims