If a Christian church in America were bombed in what the state’s governor labeled an “act of terrorism” and countless other churches were intentionally burned to the ground over the past few months, is there any doubt you would have heard about this?
Donald Trump would be screaming about a war on Christianity. Media outlets from across the political spectrum would be covering these horrific incidents. And you know what, that coverage would be the correct response. We should have a zero-tolerance policy concerning attacks on places of worship and our freedom of religion.
But we are seeing that very scenario play out in the American Muslim community, yet we are seeing a collective yawn from the mainstream media. Look what took place on Saturday in Bloomington, Minnesota. During early morning prayers at the Bloomington Islamic Center a person (or persons) tossed an improvised explosive device—as the FBI has described it—into the window of this place of worship. While thankfully no one was injured, the explosion was so loud it woke neighbors and caused damage to the mosque’s offices.
On Sunday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton visited the Bloomington Islamic Center and declared the bombing an “act of terrorism.” But this incident can’t be viewed in a vacuum. The mosque had been subject to threats in the past. And less than a week ago another anti-Muslim attack took place in the area. This time it was a recently opened Muslim cemetery in the Minneapolis suburbs that was vandalized with spray painted swastikas and profanity on the walls.
These two anti-Muslim incidents in the span of less than a week are appalling yet it’s just the tip of the iceberg of the wave of terror that has been directed against American Muslims in the time of Trump. In the first three months of 2017, four mosques were set ablaze in incidents ruled as arson. The pictures of these destroyed mosques in states from Florida to Texas to Washington reminded me of images of black churches torched by white supremacists in past decades.
In fact, the ACLU has posted an interactive 50-state map where you can see the recent attacks on American mosques. It’s as equally jaw dropping as it is heartbreaking. There you can read about a January incident in Davis, California, where a woman was seen on surveillance video breaking windows, leaving strips of raw bacon, and damaging bicycles at the Davis Islamic Center.
In February, a Columbus, Ohio, mosque was vandalized with anti-Muslim graffiti. In March, the Islamic Center of Ypsilanti in Michigan was set on fire and destroyed in an act of arson. And the list goes on and on and on.
This is not a red state/blue state issue. As the ACLU map indicates, there are attacks on mosques in almost every state. While this is alarming, it’s not unexpected in Trump’s America. When Trump won, some Muslim Americans thought it would actually satiate the bigots. But as I warned in an article days before the election, American history has shown us that if a person like Trump was victorious, he would embolden the bigots. They would feel like one of their own was in power and he had their back.
I can’t even put into words the frustration and anger I feel watching the mainstream media all but ignore this wave of terror being directed against American Muslims. People often look at me and think I’m a white guy. My skin color doesn’t tell you who I am in post 9/11 America, and especially in Trump’s America. I’m Muslim—I’m a minority. Period.
And being a minority in America will always produce a sense of frustration—especially when it comes to the media. No minority group believes that their community receives the media coverage they deserve. Add to that the media—both news and entertainment—has zero qualms demonizing our respective communities when it’s good for ratings or can sell movie tickets.
Maybe I expected too much of the mainstream media, but I hoped they would at least provide a modicum of coverage to those who are suffering in Trump’s America. Be it covering the recent bone-chilling rise in anti-Semitic incidents, the families broken up by Trump’s immigration policies, or on, and on, and on…
In the case of Muslim Americans, I’m not sure what more it will take to convince the media powers that be that this wave of attack on Muslims is building to something horrific. As the Council on American Islamic Relations reported in July, there has been an astounding 91 percent increase in hate incidents against American Muslims in the first six months of 2017 when compared to 2016. (And 2016 was awful.)
The only silver lining to all of this has been the interfaith alliances built in the time of Trump—again, something ignored by the mainstream media. For example, after the mosque in Minnesota was firebombed, an interfaith press conference was held featuring the local leaders of the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities standing shoulder to shoulder. There, Rev. Curtiss DeYoung stated, “An attack on a mosque is an attack on a synagogue is an attack on a church is an attack on all faith communities,” adding, “So we stand with you.”
We know Trump won’t stand with us. The question is will the mainstream media at least bring attention to this wave of terror in the hopes that helps blunt it? And when I say cover it, I’m not talking a single segment, I mean cover it with the same zeal and breadth as if the attacker were a Muslim.
Or will the media continue to ignore this growing threat until a terrorist walks into a mosque and slaughters Americans simply because of their faith? My fear is that only the latter will get the attention of the big media outlets.