For the second time in a little over a month, The Islamic Society of Joplin’s Mosque and Community Center was a victim of fire. The first fire, on July 4, damaged only the roof of the structure and was determined to be arson. The FBI released security camera footage and offered a reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible, but no arrests have been made. Yesterday’s fire burned the building to the ground and is still under investigation. Luckily, there were no injuries. This event occurred a day after a shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin killed 8.
The response to this fire by Joplin area Churches has been encouraging, and it seems that Imam Lahmuddin and The Islamic Society of Joplin will be well taken care of. But the perpetrators of this, and the July 4, crimes should be brought to justice. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction. The FBI is offering a similar reward. If you have any information please contact the FBI or the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department.
These examples of hate crimes in the US seem to be becoming more frequent. I believe that we need to step back and look at the history of this country before passing judgement on any person living the United States. The fact is, anyone who is not 100% Native American is an immigrant to this country. The United States was founded as a nation of immigrants. More importantly, it was founded as a country of religious freedom. The country was first settled by a number of religious groups that were shunned in Great Britain. These groups established settlements and colonies along the Eastern Seaboard. These colonies united during the American Revolution and become the United States.
When the Constitution was adopted, the Bill of Rights was added to guarantee a number of individual freedoms, among them the freedom of religion. The full text of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The key phrase in the First Amendment is that each American is guaranteed the right to freely practice the religion of their choosing. America has always been a melting pot of people and ideas and countless religions are represented including: Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, Jew, Hindus, Shinto, Taoists, and the list goes on. Many of these groups are represented in Joplin, and a number individuals choose to immigrate to America because of the freedoms guaranteed to its citizens. No one should fear retaliation for their choices. The freedom of religion was specifically listed because a number of countries in Europe were governed by Monarchs who acted as head of state and head of the state religion. The founders wanted American Citizens to practice as they choose and for a separation between religion and the State.
These hate crimes should remind us that we are all guaranteed these freedoms, but there are people who forget these freedoms are not solely for them. But with the assumption that the United States is at war with Islam, there are many Islamic groups asking for protection, especially after the recent attacks. The fact remains that the United States is battling groups of terrorists who happen to be Muslim, but we are not at war with the Muslim world. Muslims constitute 29% of world’s population, and the United States enjoys a good relationship with many Islamic nations.
I applaud the Joplin community for offering to assist the Islamic Society of Joplin, and I hope that those responsible are brought to justice and are punished for their crime. The violence must stop. It is a disgrace to our country and our constitution. America has always been about freedom and we must work together to ensure those freedoms are guaranteed to everyone.
UPDATE: The Joplin community has rallied to support The Islamic Society of Joplin. You can get involved as well. They are planning to rebuild and you can donate online or by sending a check made payable to “The Islamic Society of Joplin” and mailing it to:
The Islamic Society of Joplin
PO Box 3164
Joplin, MO 64803
211 Main Street
Joplin, MO 64801
As of this posting, they have already raised over $82,000 of their $250,000 goal! The group will also hold a fundraiser August 25 at Landreth Park in Joplin. The event, entitled Neighbors, will feature food and live music and is intended to promote community togetherness. You can keep up with The Islamic Society of Joplin and the fundraisers by following them on Facebook.