Independence Day in Joplin, Mo. saw fireworks of a different kind. On July 4, the Islamic Society of Joplin’s mosque was set on fire. While the mosque has only been open since 2007, it has already been targeted twice by arsonists. These hateful attacks must stop.
The biblical call to love our neighbors as ourselves requires Christians to speak out against these attacks. By protecting the rights of American Muslims to worship in the United States, we provide a powerful witness to those countries where Christian minorities face attack and persecution, such as Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, and Kenya. If we expect others to take our advocacy for global religious freedom seriously, then our efforts must begin in our own backyard.
While the FBI is investigating the incident, the fact that a religious community was targeted means the attack should be investigated as a potential hate crime. Christians around the country are speaking out to ensure the Department of Justice gives this the necessary attention it deserves. Add your voice to the petition calling for a hate crimes investigation and show a little love to your Muslim neighbors in Joplin, Mo.
The view from my office in New York City overlooks Ground Zero. Every day I’m in the office, I have the opportunity to observe the massive construction project as well as the thousands of visitors to the 9/11 Memorial pools. It is all a stark reminder of how a person’s faith can be radicalized and politicalized.
Unfortunately, violence perpetrated by those who have hijacked their faith continues to occur on almost a daily basis.
The Islamist terror group Boko Haram has killed hundreds of Christians in northern Nigeria since 2009. The killings have escalated in recent months, and security forces have clearly failed to protect lives, forcing hundreds to flee for safety.
Earlier this month, al-Shabaab from Somalia attacked two churches in Kenya leaving 17 people dead and scores of people injured, including women and children.
However, attacks are taking place against Muslims as well. Last week an Islamic Center in Missouri was torched. Earlier this year a mosque in Queens was firebombed.
Whether deaths occurred or not, all these acts of violence need to be condemned by all faith leaders.
As a Christian leader, let me specifically address the Muslim-Christian conflict.
JOPLIN, Mo. — The FBI has joined an investigation into the second fire at a Joplin mosque in four years.
The blaze early Wednesday burned a 4-by-6-foot section of shingles atop the Islamic Society of Joplin's building. Firefighters extinguished the flames before they could do further damage, authorities told The Joplin Globe.
Capt. Kelly Stephens of the Jasper County Sheriff's Department said investigators were studying security camera footage but he would not say what the tapes showed.
About 50 families are members of the Islamic Society of Joplin, which opened the building in 2007 as a mosque and community center, society officials said. The FBI led an investigation in 2008 when the mosque's sign was torched; that crime remains unsolved.
American-born imams are nearly impossible to find. Ads from mosques seeking imams who are fluent in English are readily found in Muslim-American magazines and newspapers. The North American Imams Federation, an advocacy group founded in 2002, gets more than 100 requests for help every year from mosques seeking religious leaders.
Hossam AlJabri, a former executive director of the Muslim American Society, estimated that about 80 percent of America’s 2,200 mosques were led by immigrant imams, although the majority have been in America for at least 10 years, many much longer.
According to a 2011 report from the Pew Research Center, 63 percent of America’s estimated 2.75 million Muslims are immigrants — with as many as 90,000 new Muslim immigrants arriving each year. Experts say it will be years before the pool of American imams becomes large enough to meet demand from mosques.
An outspoken supporter of a planned mosque that has sparked opposition in Murfreesboro, Tenn., has switched sides and joined the anti-Islam movement.
Eric Allen Bell, a documentary filmmaker, was a fixture at court hearings and protests over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in 2010. Back then, he was making a movie called Not Welcome, which depicted mosque critics as Southern Christian bigots.
Now he says the mosque is part of a plot to destroy America. He claimed the mosque is "built on a foundation of lies" in a recent op-ed piece at the anti-Islam site Jihadwatch.com.
In the past two years, the FBI has placed at least five men with affiliations to the mosque, including its longtime religious leader, on the nation's no-fly list, a roster of suspected terrorists barred from flying in the United States. None has been charged with a terrorism-related offense, and federal officials haven't told them why they're on the list.
The unexplained actions are aggravating the FBI's already poor relationship with the mosque and fueling fear and frustration among Muslims that their house of worship appears to be once again in the government's crosshairs.
"It's not that we're doing anything wrong," said Jesse Day, who converted to Islam two years ago and regularly attends the Friday services. But like many others at the mosque who flinch at the sight of a camera and suspect an informant moves among them, he worries.
The long-running battle between a Tennessee Muslim community and its critics over a new mosque took a dramatic turn when a judge ruled that construction had to halt.
The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro has existed for more than a decade, but the fight erupted in May 2010, when planning commissioners approved the center's plans to build a 52,960-square-foot building for a new mosque on Veals Road.
NEWARK, N.J. — The report was stamped top secret.
Inside was a confidential dossier compiled by the New York Police Department documenting "locations of concern" in Newark -- the city's 44 mosques, Muslim-owned restaurants and businesses and Islamic schools.
In 2007, the NYPD began an undercover spy operation within New Jersey's largest city to find and document where Muslims lived, worked and prayed.
Now, city officials and many of those targeted are voicing anger at the disclosures, which came in the wake of an Associated Press report showing that a secret NYPD surveillance program aimed at Muslims had extended well beyond New York City.
"I have deep concerns and I am very disturbed that this might have been surveillance that was based on no more than religious affiliation," Newark Mayor Cory Booker said.
Lowes pulled its ad dollars from a show that aims to tighten the tapestry we call America because of a faux controversy drummed up by a hate group that said, through its claims of “propaganda," that it's not possible for Muslims to be American.
But the fabric of our nation exists because of the genius of our nation’s founder, who, in the very first amendment to our Constitution, protected the integrity of religion by forbidding the establishment of any one religion as the religion of the state.
In every single society before the founding of our Union, religion and state were married. History has taught us that religion co-opted by the state loses its integrity and its prophetic power.
Ours was a grand experiment that built America into a grand tapestry of ethnic and religious groups that thrive side by side in relative peace—more so than in any other nation in the world.
For every American student, September starts a new year. September was a time to put away the suntan lotion and refocus on studies -- on more serious pursuits. Gone were the carefree days of summer, and in came the weather that lives perfectly in my memory -- those almost orange leaves, crisp blue skies, and the faint smell of autumn in upstate New York.
I remember it like this 10 years ago. Fourteen and gearing up for a Varsity volleyball season, I had it all. I had only one worry -- that my dad would forget to pick me up from practice, which he never did.
My class had just finished homeroom -- it was my friend's 15th birthday. I don't remember singing, but I'm sure we did. I moved into my world history class, I think we were on the Greeks. And then, it changed. My choir teacher rushed in and frantically told us to turn on the television. We saw the hallways fill with teachers.
Rev. Steve Stone was just trying to be a good neighbor.
Two years ago, the pastor of Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee, on the outskirts of Memphis, learned that a local mosque had bought property right across the street from the church. So he decided some Southern hospitality was in order.
A few days later, a sign appeared in front of the church. "Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the neighborhood," it read.
That small act of kindness was the start of an unlikely friendship between the two congregations, one that made headlines around the world. Members of the mosque and church have shared meals together, worked at a homeless shelter, and become friends over the past two years. When Stone learned that his Muslim friends needed a place to pray for Ramadan because their building wasn't ready, he opened up the doors of the church and let them hold Ramadan prayers there.