Congressman Decries Violent Persecution Of Muslims Across The U.S.: ‘It’s A Disturbing Picture’

by  BEENISH AHMED –

Muslims Pray Capitol

WASHINGTON, D.C. — “Leave America. You’re not welcome here.”

Those were the words scrawled across a letter delivered to Masjid Muhammad in Washington, DC earlier this month. A spate of extremist Islamist militant attacks from Paris to San Bernardino and calls to ban Muslims and shut down mosques by public officials have left many in the Muslim community fearful.

In the last month alone, Muslim congressman Andre Carson (D-Ind.) was sent death threats, a prominent Muslim civil rights organization received hate message containing a suspicious substance in his Capitol Hill office, and a pig’s head was left at a Philadelphia mosque. Some political and religious leaders believe the result of extremist actions and xenophobic comments has been threats and attacks.

Imam Talib Shareef, who leads services at what is described as the “Nation’s mosque” because it was the first mosque built in the capital, said the anxiety caused by such targeted hate has been palpable.

“We have members whose children have been attacked verbally, some have been attacked physically in schools,” he said in a phone interview with ThinkProgress.

He said that four fathers have come to him after their daughters targeted for their faith by fellow students in the last three months. Although he reminded them that the girls’ have a right to go to school without being harassed, Shareef said that some parents are wary of informing school administrators or civil rights organizations of the hateful comments or physical blows their children have suffered.

“They don’t know what to do because they’re not activists,” Shareef said of the parents. “They’re just regular Americans that want the best for their communities, for their families.”

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) attended an interfaith round table at the Masjid Muhammad on Wednesday along with several faith leaders and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

“People are anxious,” he said after the event. “People have said that it’s worse than any time they’ve seen since 9/11.”

He said that the attacks have become so rampant, that he would classify Muslims in America as a “persecuted religious minority.”

When asked by ThinkProgress to explain why he describes the situation as outright persecution, he pointed to what appears to be a sharp uptick in hate-fueled attacks on Muslims and mosques around the country. A list of such instances have been compiled by a civil rights’ organization called Muslim Advocates.

“This very mosque had threats directed towards it,” Ellison said. “[I]f you look at the sheer number of attacks and insults and assaults, it’s a disturbing picture.”

Munira Abdullah has sensed a rise in tension against Muslims. A Muslim-American and a board member at a mosque in Fredericksburg, Md., she said that some of her friends have decided to remove the headscarves for fear that it will mark them as Muslim.

“Most Muslims right now don’t go out when darkness comes and they don’t go out by themselves,” she added.

Abdullah wore a bright orange headscarf and a traditional turquoise dress to the interfaith discussion. The colors seemed to testify to her response to mounting Islamophobia: stand tall and speak up.

“Muslims need to talk about their religion and not be afraid to discuss what true Islam is,” she said. “Just because some knuckleheads do devilish, evil stuff, doesn’t mean we are all bad.”

“The truth is that these are very difficult times,” Bernie Sanders said during opening remarks at the roundtable. “Do we come together or do we allow demagogues to divide us up? That is the issue of the moment.”

 

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress