On July 4, the nation’s birthday, some proud American patriot tried to set a mosque afire in Joplin, Mo. On Monday, a second fire succeeded in destroying the Joplin mosque altogether, burning it to the ground. Arson is strongly suspected.
Meanwhile, a new Islamic center in Murfreesboro, Tenn. — long delayed by arson, a bomb threat and legal challenges claiming that Islam is not a religion and that the mosque would become a headquarters for Muslims trying to impose Sharia law — is scheduled to finally open its doors for services Friday. Security will no doubt be tight.
The necessary occupancy permit was issued only after the intervention of the U.S. Justice Department. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell ruled that the mosque was being subjected to unconstitutional standards that are never applied to other buildings and churches, and ordered local officials to allow its opening.
The mosque also became a central issue in a local congressional race, even though the Islamic center is outside district boundaries. U.S. Rep. Diane Black, the GOP incumbent, complained that “Christians’ rights to freedom of religion (is) violated frequently and the Obama Justice Department doesn’t coming rushing to our aid, but they will meddle in a local zoning matter to promote Islam.”
Lou Ann Zelenik, Black’s opponent, was an even more bitter foe of the mosque, pledging that if elected she would “work to stop the Islamization of our society, and do everything possible to prevent Sharia law from circumventing our laws and our Constitution.” (Black eventually won the primary contest.)
Members of nearby Grace Baptist Church are also making clear their opposition, erecting 13 large white crosses along the route to the mosque. “It was more or less to make a statement to the Muslims about how we felt about our religion, our Christianity,” the man who erected the crosses said. “We wanted them to see the crosses and know how we felt about things.”
However, I was struck by the response of a mosque leader to the crosses and other expressions of opposition:
“We love our neighbors, all of them, including the church next door. As Muslims, we believe in Jesus as well. Jesus said ‘love thy neighbors’. They are our neighbors, and we must love them.
“Also, our prophet Muhammad, before he died, told Muslims they need to love their neighbors and take care of them, and not only their immediate neighbor but extended to the seventh neighbor. That means everybody should love everybody, and that peace and love would be cast on the whole community.”
Clearly, we must prevent such dangerous sentiments from spreading and taking over the country.
UPDATE: I should note that several Joplin-area churches have volunteered to host an an interfaith “iftar,” or Ramadan fast-breaking meal, for the congregation of the mosque destroyed Monday.
– Jay Bookman