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Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) and Islamophobia: Chickens Come Home to Roost with Shooting Incident at Morton Grove Mosque

Written By: humarashid - Aug• 12•12

On Sunday, a Sikh temple in Milwaukee, WI, was stormed by an armed, neo-Nazi white gunman who killed many worshipers while they were celebrating a child’s birthday. (We still had geniuses like Dean Obediullah asking, iz it terrorism doe? we need facts first u guise.) On Monday, the masjid in Joplin, MO, was torched to the ground. Not just burned or damaged, but torched to the ground. On Tuesday, pigs’ legs were thrown at a California masjid while Muslims prayed inside. On Thursday, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) said that Muslims in America were trying to kill Americans and another 9/11 will happen soon in the Chicago area. On Friday, there was a shooting at the MEC masjid in Morton Grove, IL. (Edited to add) On Sunday, an Islamic school and masjid in Lombard, IL, was slightly damaged while Muslims prayed Tarawih inside, when an acid bomb was hurled at its exterior wall.

Keep this in the back of your mind as you read this. Ask yourself if maybe, just maybe, this is a big part of why the fact that I’m not Christian and not white scares me deeply.

As many of you know, I live in Illinois, in the suburbs of Chicago. Representative Joe Walsh, disgrace that he is, is one of ours. Suffice it to say, the only reason I don’t cry myself to sleep at night over the elected officials Illinois has managed to cough up is the fact that we also sent Dick Durbin to D.C., and he’s basically the best senator now that Feingold (D-WI) is gone.

Let’s be clear: Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL) is a bigot. He is an Islamophobe. He is a hateful, misinformed politician who makes hateful, misinformed remarks, and now, with the recent events at the MEC masjid in Morton Grove, we are seeing the results of his hateful rhetoric, his willful ignorance, and his poisonous xenophobia and Islamophobia.

Though not all Republican politicians are so violently opposed to Islam – indeed, there are a few who stand up for Muslim Americans – Islamophobia is definitely a big part of the GOP’s platform.

For those who are unaware, Rep. Joe Walsh made some very ignorant, bigoted remarks about Muslims recently, asserting that radical Islam has infiltrated the Chicago suburbs.

A word of advice, Representative: beards and a silk or cotton veil worn over the hair is not radical Islam.

As much as I hate reproducing GOP politicians’ hateful remarks, I will do Rep. Joe Walsh the honor of quoting him to illustrate how small-minded this man is, and what a dark, scary place his world seems to be.

He warned, “There is a radical stream of Islam in this country, not just over there that are trying to kill Americans. It is a real threat. It’s in Elk Grove, it’s in Addison, it’s in Elgin.”

This terrified, racist, elderly man also stated that Muslims in Chicago’s suburbs (like me!) and around the country are “trying to kill Americans every week.”

For the record, I’m not trying to kill Americans every week. The most I do is occasionally punch @BobBlahBlawg when he gets fresh. But that doesn’t count, because @BobBlahBlawg is a terrible person, and also one of my very best friends.

In Elk Grove Village, which is not very far from Morton Grove, Walsh said that another September 11 was an absolute certainty, and that political correctness had rendered the government impotent against a “real threat” from within the country that could strike in any community in the country.

(Funny, I don’t seem to recall random Muslim men suddenly shooting a bunch of strangers in a public place all over the country. For some reason, I seem to recall angry white men, many of them with military backgrounds, shooting Americans in movie theatres, non-Christian houses of worship, college campuses…? Goodness, to refrain from maligning poor, innocent white men with supremacist beliefs, I sure hope I haven’t been imagining all of those many, many “isolated incidents” in which white men open fire in public places!)

CAIR immediately fired back against this disgraceful elected official’s remarks. If you’ve ever met Ahmed Rehab or seen him in action, you know the man does not back down and does not tolerate these kinds of attacks on his people or his religion.

If you’re interested in seeing Rehab strike down this hateful man’s bigotry, and I think you should be, click here to watch the video at the CAIR website.

Chicago religious leaders have condemned Rep. Joe Walsh’s asinine remarks and raised a demand for an apology to the Muslim community.

Surprising no one, Rep. Joe Walsh (are you counting how many times I’m using his full name? Yay, Google search algorithms!) decided to remain as classy as ever and forcefully refused to make any apology for spewing such hate. Suburban Muslims are rightfully noting that they (we!) are becoming a punching bag for the GOP during an election year, and worry that this will have negative repercussions in the community.

I’m not putting these links here for my health, folks. Click them. Read them. Understand what Islamophobia is, its practical, everyday applications and effects, and how it hurts not only Muslims but all of America.Read. Educate yourself on this issue, and then work to combat it by educating those around you who share Rep. Joe Walsh’s ignorance and blind hatred for his fellow Americans and another Abrahamic faith.

Soon after Rep. Joe Walsh’s remarks inciting hatred and violence, wouldn’t you know it, hatred and violence left their mark on our Chicago Muslim community.

In Morton Grove, there is a masjid (Anglicized word: mosque). It’s called MEC (Muslim Education Center). It’s the oldest masjid in Illinois, and one of the largest ones as well. It’s called MEC because the masjid is joined with an Islamic school – a full time school that teaches all normal subjects, but offers Arabic for a foreign language as well as courses in Islamic history, Islamic jurisprudence, Quranic linguistics and memorization, and so on.

Snapshots from the MEC masjid in Morton Grove, IL, including a picture of Muslims sitting down for Iftar (the small meal with which to break our fast) on the 11th day of Ramadan 2012. Click to enlarge. Even though there are brown people and/or Muslims in these photos, I promise, there is no need for alarm, despite what GOP politicians tell you.

Some of you may remember that I attended a private Islamic school from 5th-9th grade before transferring out to a local public school. My experience in that Islamic school – CPSA in Lombard – was not all that pleasant. I have few fond memories. But the fond memories I do have are very fond indeed, and focus mainly on my wonderful friends and fellow students and some teachers, who really did make it feel like a warm, loving environment sometimes.

Unfortunately, those wonderful students couldn’t always compensate for some of the teachers, the parents in our community whose kids attended the school, and certainly not for the members on the school board, and after 9th grade I’d had enough and very happily transferred to Glenbard South High, where I have only fond memories, and where I never experienced any Islamophobia even though I transferred in two weeks before 9/11, and at the time wore a hijab (which I stopped wearing after 9/11 because my father was afraid I’d be assaulted).

In case you were curious, this is what I look like in hijab. I bet Joe Walsh starts shaking in his boots the second I cover my hair. The poor dear. The poor, hateful dear. (Reminds me of a baby that, when you cover your eyes, thinks you disappeared.) It’s a piece of cloth, Joe Walsh. I cordially invite you to get over it.

But while I was at CPSA, we participated in things like inter-Islamic school basketball and volleyball games and tournaments, inter-Islamic school spelling bees, Scholastic bowls, and so on. Sometimes, we went to MEC to participate, and even though I don’t live in that area and so don’t really have a chance to go to that masjid, I came to love that community and that building.

The other day, while men, women, and children were praying tarawih (nightly prayers in Ramadan lasting at minimum an hour and at most up to 2.5 hours) and while children played outside, someone shot an air rifle at the masjid.

Off-duty Chicago cops had been hired by MEC to protect the masjid and the jamaat (Arabic for congregation, referring to anyone who’s in the masjid praying at the time) . One of the bullets embedded itself in the wall just inches from the officer’s head. The officers promptly called for backup and the incident is being investigated.

And before I start discussing this further, please, miss me with those “OMG it was just a BB gun or whatever, someone only fired shots, calm your tits” remarks. I HAVE already gotten those remarks. Those remarks make me want to punch someone. (Oh, no, Rep. Joe Walsh must be right! Muslims ARE violent! Especially when faced with violence and hatred!)

If you are honestly thinking that, examine yourself. Examine the xenophobia and white supremacist notions that have to have taken root in your thoughts somewhere along the line that would prompt you to tell a bunch of Muslims not to worry, because it’s not like the person that attacked their place of peaceful worship while they were praying used REAL bullets.

And can you IMAGINE what would happen if a Muslim were to shoot an air rifle at a church during a Sunday service? Can you even imagine?! If you honestly don’t see the difference, or how the difference in treatment is extremely problematic and xenophobic, then please back away. I will not engage your bigoted comments. I will not publish them. You have no place in this discussion if you can’t even confront the racism and xenophobia and white supremacy that Muslims, and basically all people of color (POC) combat every single day.

Miss me with those “calm your tits” remarks – trust me, I’ve gotten enough of those already. My tits will stay enraged and alarmed, thank you.

The investigation of the attack on MEC is still ongoing. I hope the culprit or culprits are found soon and face hate crime charges. Because let’s be honest: this is terrorism. This is as much an act of terrorism as the attack on the Gurdwara in Milwaukee, WI, except that unlike the Sikh community, we were lucky enough not to lose anyone.

(As a Muslim, my thoughts and prayers are with my Sikh brothers and sisters. We are so sorry for your loss, and pray for your community’s healing.)

Naturally, Ahmed Rehab of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR – @cairchicago) made remarks about the shooting and rightfully pointed out that air rifles CAN kill.

There was an arrest made early this morning in connection with the shooting. 51-year-old David Conrad lives just east of the masjid, and police confiscated a high velocity air-rifle from his home. He was charged with three counts of aggravated discharge of a firearm and one count of criminal damage to property. The alleged terrorist is scheduled for a bond hearing on Monday.  Read more about the alleged terrorist and confirmed bastard here.

I’m not one to subscribe to Dean Obeidullah’s House Muslim nonsense about how we need more facts about whether or not this is terrorism. No. A man entered a place of worship for the sole reason of causing damage and/or hurting people who were there. That is prima facie terrorism. Terrorism on its face. If you expect me to wait around for a glimpse of the perpetrator’s diary in which he writes, “Dearest diary, today I am going to commit an act of terrorism, wish me luck, xoxo,” don’t hold your breath.

This man came into our masjid and tried to damage it. He could have killed someone inside (like that off-duty Chicago cop). He could have hurt one of the kids playing outside. He came because he hates Islam and wants to hurt its adherents. He hates this place and its jamaat because of the religion we all stand for. And bow for, and prostrate ourselves for.

This man is a terrorist, and his goal is to instill fear in people.

And unfortunately, he succeeded.

Because when I stand in line in the jamaat at my masjid in Naperville, some 32 miles from MEC in Morton Grove, some 93 miles from the Gurdwara in Milwaukee, instead of concentrating on Sheikh Ismael al-Qadi’s beautiful qirat (Arabic word: recitation) of the Quran, I find my thoughts straying to what I would do if, while I was standing in prayer with my hands folded over my chest, some white guy burst into the masallah (Arabic word: prayer hall) and opened fire.

Would I break my prayer? Yes. Oh, yes. I’m devoted, but not stupid.

Would I immediately fall to the ground and play dead?

Would I seek cover behind one of the pillars? Behind one of the tables in the back? Behind one of the many folding chairs used by aunties whose age or ailments prevent them from making the full range of movements required in our prayer? Behind one of my fellow Muslim sisters, God forbid?

Would I stay down until all shots had ceased? Would I surreptitiously reach for my cell phone so I could call the cops while the attack was happening? Would I grab the nearest child and haul her under me to shield her from bullets? Would I get hurt? Would I die on the thickly carpeted floor of our masjid? After the clean up and restoration, would other Muslims have to pray on the spot where my blood once stained the carpet?

And if I was unhurt, miraculously, how would I ever come back to that masjid? How would I ever be able to go to another masjid, knowing full well what had happened in mine? And if I could manage to pull it together and go to another masjid, would I just be thinking, while I stood in jamaat and prayed, that I was literally just standing there waiting for the next hateful Islamophobe, spurred on by hateful Islamophobic politicians like Rep. Joe Walsh, to come and try to kill me again?

Would I wear a bullet-proof vest to any future prayers I attended in a masjid, if I managed to go back to one? Would I kick myself for not having a FOID card and concealed carry permit so I could shoot that motherfucker in the face before he killed any more members of my community?

Hell, Eid prayers are in about a week – everyone will be at the masjids. The masjids will be crammed to capacity. Should I wear a bullet proof vest next week?

THESE are the thoughts that run through my head as I stand in tarawih, unable to concentrate on the beautiful Arabic being read in our sheikh’s strong, clear voice. THESE are the thoughts that run through my head before I can stop myself, before I can help it.

Read those thoughts again and TELL ME they’re not a reaction to the terrorism wreaked against minority groups and POC by white supremacist ideology. READ those thoughts again and just try to tell me I’m getting carried away in my fears, that this isn’t really going to happen, that I’m making too big a deal out of this, that I need to ‘calm my tits.’

Read those thoughts and remember what I asked you to think about at the beginning:

Sunday – a Gurdwara in the suburbs of Milwaukee was attacked by a neo-Nazi white terrorist. He killed many people and injured many more.

Monday – a masjid in Joplin, MO, was torched to the ground after several failed arson attempts earlier this year and in 2011.

Tuesday – Pigs’ legs are thrown at a California masjid. As it is well known that Muslims do not eat pork, this is a clear sign of hatred toward Muslims and evidence of a desire for Muslims to leave that Californian community.

Wednesday – they gave us one day of peace. I suppose we should thank them.

Thursday – Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) says Muslims want to kill Americans and another 9/11 is an absolute certainty. Frankly, I’d argue that another #MilwaukeeGurdwara and another #JoplinMasjidArson is an absolute certainty, especially thanks to people like Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL).

Friday – a masjid near my home and dear to my heart was fired upon by a hateful white American terrorist, possibly David Conrad of Morton Grove. Part of my community, my network of aunties and uncles and friends, is deeply shaken and scared, while at the same time giving copious thanks to God (subhanAllah wa bihamdi – Arabic for “Glory be to God and praise him”) that the terrorist didn’t use real bullets like the guy in Milwaukee.

But, alhamdulillah (Arabic: “Praise be to God”), we did get one day free of hate this week. On that day, just like today, I wondered where the next attack will be.

And Rep. Joe Walsh, Republican of Illinois, I hold you partly responsible. Your hate, your ignorance, your deliberate spreading of misinformation, and your arrogance in refusing to apologize to people you have wronged created this event. It created this pain. It created this fear. We lay it squarely on your bigoted shoulders, you disgraceful man.

I invite Joe Walsh and every one of you reading this to examine these events and those that -gasp!- didn’t happen this week. Examine them, and tell me again about how these are “isolated incidents,” instead of what they really are: evidence of a strong pattern of violent xenophobia, Islamophobia and white supremacy, perpetuated in part by (mostly GOP) politicians.

Rep. Joe Walsh, I am looking at you. I am blaming you. I am so deeply ashamed of you.



Edit: I wrote this post on Sunday afternoon. That night, my Islamic school that I used to attend, the very one I mentioned up above as not liking very much, was attacked when someone threw an acid bomb (in a 2L bottle of 7UP) at it while Muslims, including my best friend since seventh grade, Nida, prayed inside with her family.

I already said I didn’t like CPSA very much. I have few fond memories (although I do definitely have some very fond memories). Though I do not recant that statement, I must say that despite my resentment of that place and members of its community, I was deeply saddened and alarmed when I heard the news on Monday morning. Even though I don’t like CPSA, it’s still a part of my life, a part of my experiences, a part of who I am today and why I am the way I am. I still am friends with members of CPSA’s community. I see them frequently. My mother taught there for 15 years. It’s impossible not to be sad and hurt and scared by this news.

On Monday, I went over to my BFF’s house to spend the day with her and break my fast and pray Tarawih with her family. When I got there, she told me about the bomb that had been hurled the night before. In her words, “We were inside, praying Tarawih, when all of a sudden there was this HUGE blast right outside the windows.” Those would be the windows barely two steps from where the jamaat stands in prayer.

That night, Nida and I both prayed Tarawih at CPSA with her family and the other people there. A uniformed cop sat in a car at the end of the drive during the whole 2-3 hour shift, with his lights on, keeping watch. It was uneventful, and strangely peaceful. There is a very strange, almost foolish sense of fatalism that comes with praying in a place that was very recently attacked, I realized. I had this feeling of, “What are you going to do now, now that there’s an armed cop at the end of the driveway? Whatever you were hoping for, you failed. We’re still here, and we’re not leaving.”

But I am no longer a part of the CPSA community, and I do not wish to speak further on the behalf of those who are. I will let them tell their stories. Since this story is immediately pertinent to this post, I felt compelled to edit.

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