A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Personal Note: An Islamophobic Outrage Close to Home

I don't normally post on Islamophobic outbreaks here in the US, since 1) there are too many; 2) others regularly monitor this stuff; and 3) it's bad for my blood pressure. But this one is almost personal, since it took place in my home town of Joplin, Missouri, where the local mosque was destroyed by fire last night. There had been a small fire July 4, extinguished before much damage was done, but last night's fire destroyed the building. Ironically, just Saturday night the Imam had invited clergy from Joplin's Christian churches and its United Hebrew Congregation to an Iftar at the mosque, to promote interfaith understanding. The other congregations are now offering help.

The fact that the arson took place during Ramadan merely rubs salt in the wound.

When Joplin High School was completely destroyed by an F5 tornado in last year's record storm, the United Arab Emirates provided free laptops for every student (or perhaps every graduating senior, at least). Joplin will be recovering for a long time from that disaster, and I believe all the faith communities have worked together. The cross that stood outside St. Mary's Catholic Church — my old childhood parish — was all that remained standing (left) of the church and its elementary school, and became a nationally noted symbol of Joplin's will to rebuild. This stupid hate crime against a faith community profanes that symbol.

Joplin deserves better: its people are trying to rebuild a town devastated by the tornado; they deserve to be known for their will to survive, not for the hatred  of some individual who believes in burning places of worship.  Forunately this act, in which no one was injured, will hopefully be buried by the coverage of the killings at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, I hope the mosque can rebuild soon.

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