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 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

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January 1, 2015

2014: Another hard & difficult year for American Muslims

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

* A Muslim teen ager is fatally injured in an a hate assault in Kansas City.

* Somali cabbie beaten in Seattle hate crime.

* St. Cloud Minnesota mosque vandalized four times within 4 weeks.

* Hate attack on a Bosnian Muslim woman in St Lous.

* Urine placed at Muslim chaplain’s office at  Wake Forest University, North Carolina.

* Florida State University professor resigns after anti-Muslim Facebook comments.

These are some of the news headlines in the first two weeks of December 2014 related to the Muslims in America. These tragic incidents and disturbing episodes embody the dilemma and plight of the seven-million strong Muslim American community which remained under siege since 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Discrimination and hate crimes against the Muslims in America increased after the beheading of American journalists by the so-called ” ISIS or Islamic State” terrorists whose sudden meteorite rise remains questionable.

 Not surprisingly, The New York Daily News highlighted the issue with the following headline: Muslims across America, Europe face renewed 9/11-style scorn amid ISIS' violent campaign. The paper said: “Muslims in America and Europe say discrimination against them has seemed more pronounced after the Islamic State terrorists beheaded American and British journalists and aid workers. Hate-filled remarks on social media have also become more prevalent, especially since 9/11, when Facebook and Twitter did not yet exist.”

At the same time, the New York Police Department reported a spike in the number of hate crimes against Jews and Muslims since the Israeli operation against Palestinians this summer and the beheading of two American journalists by the "Islamic State" group. Media coverage of the two major stories to emerge from the Mideast this summer contributed to a 50% combined jump in bias-related attacks against members of the two religions as well as other hate crimes, such as anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim graffiti, New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

Hate Crimes

On December 4, 2014, a 15-year-old boy, Abdisamad Sheikh-Hussein, was killed in a hit-and-run outside the Somali Center of Kansas City. According to police, the boy’s legs were severed when an SUV intentionally swerved toward him and struck him. He was transported to a hospital but died from his injuries. The driver of the vehicle, a man in his 30s, ran from the scene but was caught by the police and taken into custody.

Family members told WDAF-TV the teenager was the son of the Somali Center’s leader. Community members say the driver has been threatening the Muslim community for months on Facebook and in person. They shared a photo with the media of the man's SUV with anti-Muslim graffiti on its back window that read, "Quran is a virus disease woreste [sic] than Ebola."

The deadly Kansas City incident came a day after vandalism was reported at the Central Minnesota Islamic Center in St. Cloud. Muslim leaders in St. Cloud reported on Dec 3 that vandalism was discovered at the Central Minnesota Islamic Center. On Dec 15, again the Central Minnesota Islamic Center was vandalized with a broken window. This was the fourth incident of damage at the Islamic center within few weeks.

A number of apparent hate attacks were reported on Islamic institutions in the United States. Shots were fired at the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley in California and a firebomb attack on a mosque in New Mexico. A threatening letter was sent to a local mosque in San Diego. A Star of David and the number 26 was spray-painted on a door of the Islamic Center of Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, Calif.

Also in November, the Muslim cemetery was vandalized in Washington State. Headstones bearing a star and crescent and Arabic inscriptions were vandalized at the Islamic Community of Bosniaks in Washington State's cemetery near Maltby.

In another manifestation of hate, a bucket of urine was found in November in front of the office of Imam Khalid Griggs of the Wake Forest University, North Carolina. According to Winston-Salem Journal, it was the latest in a series of incidents involving issues of race, religion and ethnicity at WFU during the past four months.

On December 10, Jesse Alexander Fleming, 26, was accused of a hate crime for beating a Somali American cab driver while calling him a “terrorist” and asking him if he was a member of ISIS. Two other passengers who rode with him allegedly participated in the assault, according to police. Fleming, was charged in King County Superior Court on suspicion of second-degree assault and malicious harassment, a charge that alleges that the attack was motivated by racial, ethnic or religious bias. Fleming, of San Manuel, Arizona, is on active duty in the military, according to charging papers. The Seattle Globalist reported that the driver, Adan Ali Gaal, 34, was knocked unconscious and suffered a broken nose that may require surgery, according to the charging documents from the prosecutor’s office. According to police, Fleming told the driver “you are a terrorist,” “you should go back to your own country,” and “I will shoot you” before leaning across the seat to punch him in the face. The case is the second high profile assault of a cab driver in Seattle with alleged racial or religious motivation in the past two years, according to the Globalist.

In St. Louis, a Bosnian woman told police she was driving when three men walked in front of her vehicle, ordered her to stop, struck her car and asked where she was from. When the woman said she was European the men called her a liar, and told her “You’re Bosnian. I should just kill you now.”

That early December attack came less than a week after Zemir Begic, a 32-year-old Bosnian man, was attacked by four teens. At least one of the attackers hit Begic with a hammer. Begic later died of his injuries, but police have said they do not believe he was targeted because of his ethnicity. Some in the Bosnian community have doubts. So does Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Missouri and Southern Illinois. People can say hateful things and be protected under the First Amendment, said A.J. Bockelman, executive director of Promo, a statewide organization that advocates for equality. Hate speech is not punishable, he said. If, however, those words are said during an attack, it escalates to a hate crime.

The latest hate incident happened on December 20 in San Diego, when a Navy officer punched a cab driver in the face. He told police he did it because he thought the cabbie was "possibly a Muslim." According to a complaint filed by the Sikh cabbie Avtar Singh, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kyle Blackwell told the investigating officer that he was "'in fear of my life because he [Singh] looked Middle Eastern, possibly from Iraq or Afghanistan."


Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry has become acceptable in the post-9/11 America. Just two recent examples:

Earlier in December, Deborah O'Connor, a Florida State University professor, resigned after making racial slurs  and disparaging remarks about Muslims, in a heated Facebook exchange about recent police killings of unarmed blacks. "Obama has single-handedly turned our once great society into a Ghetto Culture, rivaling that of Europe. France is almost at war because of his filthy rodent Muslims who are attacking Native Frenchmen and women," O'Connor wrote in one response to a stranger on the Facebook thread. 

And on Dec 2, a Houston elementary school teacher resigned after making anti-Muslim comments on a political talk show. "I am so sick of the bacon-haters coming here and demanding that we bend to their culture -- no," Angela Box said on a segment discussing terrorism. She also used profanity when discussing Muslims.

Not surprisingly, the Anti-Muslim Card was played in the 2014 Midterm Election. The use of Islamophobic discourse to exploit voters’ fears remains an acceptable component of political campaigns. Republicans were responsible for the overwhelming majority of anti-Islam electoral prejudice.

The most significant anti-Islam action of the 2014 midterm election, was Alabama’s Amendment One that was approved by voters. Alabama is the eighth state to approve a law intended to vilify Islam. The measure was inspired by Islamophobe David Yerushalmi’s American Laws for American Courts legislation, which stigmatizes Muslims as a group from which the US needs protection.

Georgia Islamophobe Jody Hice handily won a U.S. House seat. Hice believes the First Amendment does not apply to Islam. However, two Islamophobes were defeated. Larry Kaifesh, a Republican who sought a U.S. House seat representing Illinois was defeated. Kaifesh told the Chicago Tribune's editorial board, "I think if you follow Islam the way Muhammad wanted you to, you will be intolerant of nonbelievers, you will support aggression and you will believe that there will only be peace in the world if the world is Islam." In Texas, Republican Larry Smith, who called Islam the "death of humanity," lost his bid for a U.S. House seat.

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