Muslims face threats of violence, harassment in wake of Paris attacks

Muslims face threats of violence, harassment in wake of Paris attacks

As Friday's deadly terror attacks in Paris unfolded, Muslims around the world reacted in horror — and braced for threats, harassment and violence at home.

On Saturday night, a fire broke out at a mosque in Ontario. No one was in it at the time, and despite the fact that fire officials there ruled the blaze an act of arson, the president of the local Muslim association believes it was “clearly a hate crime.”

Earlier in the day, a mosque in St. Petersburg, Fla., reported it received a voicemail that threatened to "firebomb you and shoot whoever is there in the head."

“I don’t care if they are f***ing 2 years old or 100,” the caller said. “I am over your f***ing bull**** and our whole country is.”

A similar threat was made to another Florida mosque, and the caller spoke of “shooting people at will.”

The FBI said it is investigating the incidents, and St. Petersburg police have increased patrols in the area around the mosque.

“When I first heard the voicemail, I was in shock,” Hatem Jaber, a volunteer at the  St. Petersburg mosque, told a local television station.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been.

In the weeks following the deadly attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, France’s National Observatory Against Islamophobia saw a 281 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents compared to the previous year.

“When this horrific thing happened on Friday, all the Muslims I know went through the same thing,” Ronald Abdul Rahim Hubbs told the International Business Times. “You first have the emotions of, ‘Oh my God, that’s terrible.’ The second feeling that comes up is, ‘Here we go again.’”

In Portland, Ore., a handful of protesters showed up outside Hubbs’ mosque, chanting anti-Muslim slurs at worshippers as they arrived for Sunday prayer.

“Your Quran is the doctrine of demons! Jesus is going to destroy the Muslims!” one demonstrator screamed through a megaphone even as a non-Muslim neighbor tried to reason with him. But the epithets continued: “Islam is a lie! You’re nothing more than a pawn of Satan, you demonic Muslim dogs!”

In Paris, Reuters reported blood-red crosses were found painted on the wall of a mosque on Saturday morning, and similar graffiti was found outside at least two other mosques in other parts of the country.

It's not just mosques that are facing threats and harassment.

Police at the University of Connecticut are investigating after a student, Mahmoud Hashem, found the words “killed Paris” had been written underneath his name on the door of his dorm room.

“It’s not my fault. [The terrorists] are the killer, not me,” Hashem, who is originally from Egypt and studies engineering at UConn, told WTNH-TV. “I love America.”

“This hurtful act is clearly unacceptable, and contradicts UConn’s values as it works to provide a welcoming environment for all students on all of our campuses,” a university spokeswoman said in a statement. “UConn Police and other UConn officials have begun investigations into this incident, and at the same time are working to provide support to the student and impacted community.”

In Dearborn, Mich., home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States, police investigated a threat posted to Twitter on Saturday afternoon.

"Let’s f*** that place up and send a message to ISIS,” the tweet read. “We’re coming.”

In Orlando, Fla., a Muslim family said they found bullet holes when they returned home Sunday morning. No one was injured, but police are investigating to determine whether it was a hate crime.

And in Oxfordshire, England, police arrested a woman who posted a message to Facebook saying she would refuse to serve Muslims at her beauty salon.

“Blinks of Bicester are no longer taking bookings from anyone from the Islamic faith whether you are U.K. granted with passport or not,” her message read. “Sorry but time to put my country first.”

A police spokesman said the woman was arrested for allegedly producing “written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting with the intention of stirring up racial hatred.”

Following the attacks in Paris, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, condemned the killings.

“These savage and despicable attacks on civilians, whether they occur in Paris, Beirut or any other city, are outrageous and without justification,” CAIR said in a statement. “We condemn these horrific crimes in the strongest terms possible.”

A group of French Muslim students produced a powerful video condemning the attacks.

"They invoke the Qur’an, and quote its verses," a voiceover says in the video, which features students holding a sign bearing the hashtag #NousSommesUnis (translation: "We are united"). "But shedding the blood of an innocent has no justification, not in Islam or anywhere."

“They wanted France to be weak," the narration continues. "They made our French hearts strong.”

But Rajahat Ali, a Muslim author and journalist at Al-Jazeera America, says such statements fall on deaf ears.

“We Muslims have to engage in what I call the ‘condemnathon tour,’” Ali told IBT. “If we don’t engage in it, it’s almost as if we’re validating or supporting a vile act. We’re supposed to condemn violent actions by violent extremists in a country we’ve never visited or else. And even if we do, the collective group of 1.5 billion Muslims is still indicted, convicted and sentenced.”

American Muslims say it doesn’t help to have conservatives like Republican frontrunner Donald Trump calling for U.S. authorities “to watch and study the mosques” — and saying he would consider closing some if elected president.

“I would hate to do it, but it’s something that you’re going to have to strongly consider,” Trump said on MSNBC's “Morning Joe” on Monday. “We have to be much tougher. We are going to have to give up certain privileges that we’ve always had.”

Meanwhile, the governors of seven states — Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Texas — say they will refuse Syrian refugees in the wake of the attacks in Paris.

“I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ‏announced on Sunday night.

Speaking at the G-20 summit in Turkey Monday, President Obama said such rhetoric is not what the U.S. stands for.

“That’s shameful. That’s not American,” Obama said. “That’s not who we are.”