Not two weeks after the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand that killed fifty worshippers, graffiti referencing the terror attack was found at the site of an arson in Escondido, California last week. The event is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
The arson was reported in the early hours of Sunday March 17 at Dar-ul-Arqam mosque. Luckily, no one was injured and there was minimal damage to the structure, due to the fact that seven members of the mosque had been staying overnight and were able to extinguish the fire before any serious damage was done. No suspect has yet been identified.
The real danger, however, is in what this attack implies. It implies that racists and Islamophobes feel increasingly emboldened—globally and nationally—to use violent measures in trying to achieve their ends. To make matters worse, there is now a substantial (and growing) history of events to which other similarly situated individuals can point and emulate.
White supremacy, which was an explicit motive in the New Zealand shootings, is an ideology that has a shamefully long history in the United States, and the rise of the alt-right has not only ensured that white supremacy persists, but also allowed it to thrive.
However, the rise of this new ideology is not the definitive cause of the recent terroristic acts in the US, as the alt-right has simply rebranded old concepts—namely, white supremacy—using different language. Hatred based on national origin, race, religion, and several other categories all have long histories, and they have insidiously woven themselves into the fabric of certain aspects of American culture and individual attitudes.
The arson in Escondido brings into focus that Islamophobia specifically is alive and well, even in liberal states like California. It has therefore become absolutely necessary for the moral majority of Californians to actively stand up for their Muslim and Arab neighbors, co-workers, and fellow citizens whenever they see Islamophobia manifesting. Whether this happens in a house of worship or place of employment, people deserve to feel safe from harassment and violence, and to not be discriminated against based on their national origin or religious identity.
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