The United States has experienced a spike in anti-Muslim racism and threatened violence against American Muslims in the past months. Much of the escalation has taken place in the aftermath of a shooting in Garland, Texas, at a Prophet Muhammad drawing contest.
In Phoenix, Arizona, a white supremacist named Jon Ritzheimer planned a “Draw Muhammad” contest after the shooting and mobilized a biker gang for a rally outside the city’s mosque. Those in attendance were encouraged to exercise their Second Amendment rights and bear arms to protect their First Amendment rights.
The mosque has received letters containing threats in the past months and have worked with the FBI and local police to protect worshipers from any violence. Most recently, Ritzheimer threatened to take a stand at a Louis Farrakhan event planned for the fall, saying, “The likelihood for blood will be high.”
This week on “Unauthorized Disclosure,” Imraan Siddiqi, the chairman of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) who is based in Phoenix, joins the show to talk about anti-Muslim hysteria and racism in the United States. We talk about his experience fending off Ritzheimer’s hate-filled protests and threats of violence directed at Muslims in his community. We discuss a released May bulletin from the FBI warning militia extremists are increasingly targeting Muslims. We highlight how rhetoric promoting fear against Muslims spreads in this country.
In the second half, we continue our interview with Siddiqi by talking about white men attempting to frame American Muslims for terrorist plots by faking the plots themselves. We highlight a case in New York involving a KKK man, who wanted to build a death-ray machine to kill Muslims and essentially was entrapped by the FBI. The rest of the episode is spent talking about mosques in the United States and what it is like for American Muslims to have agents and informants working for the FBI infiltrate their communities.
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Below are some highlights from this week’s interview with Imraan Siddiqi:
—”There started to be violent death threats toward a few different mosques in Phoenix. There were letters sent to the Tempe mosque and there was also a letter to this mosque that we’re talking about here. It said we’re going to target your worshipers while they are worshiping. We know who the Board of Directors are. We’re going to target your families inside your houses and we’re going to burn your mosque down. So, it was very explicit so actually the hate crimes division of the Phoenix PD and the FBI had to get involved with this because this is more than just a random threat.”
—[explaining that the mosque learned their would be armed rally by biker gang from FBI] “The issue became what are you going to do about it? There are people in our community who wanted to keep it quiet. Just sweep it under the rug. Let these people come and spew their hatred. They encouraged on their Facebook page to “exercise your Second Amendment rights,” which obviously means your gun, brandishing it openly, trying to intimidate the right to worship of other Americans essentially. So, we had to make the decision, what are we going to do about this? Are we going to either publicize this or are we going to keep this under wraps? So we definitely chose making it public because no on should live under fear of violence or threat.”
—”Part of it, it’s comedic to see how comedic and small-minded these people are. It’s the same thing as frying bacon on the edge of an AR-15. These people are just in their own little cocoon. They think that throwing bacon at a mosque or shooting at a Koran is going to make Muslims bow into submission or melt like the Wicked Witch or something like that. So, yeah, it’s absurd, but at the same time, look at what happens. Look at [Ritzheimer’s] fan base and how it’s grown over the last two months alone.”
And this was an exchange Rania Khalek had with Siddiqi:
KHALEK: This would not be acceptable if this were any other religious house of worship, for people to brandish guns outside a house of worship and start shouting at families. You’ve got kids. What do you tell your kids about people doing this?
SIDDIQI: Yeah, it’s sad. I have three sons so they see me going for these interviews on TV and they see me on TV and they hear me talking about Islamophobia. My older sons ask me about Islamophobia. Why are you always talking about Islamophobia? That’s all you talk about.
For them, they don’t have a concept of people hating Muslims just because they’re Muslims. It’s sort of sad when you think about it. You’re so innocent where you have this outlook on life that people don’t judge one another based on their looks, their color, their creed, or whatever. So, for them, it is very innocent. They don’t understand there are people out there that hate them for their religion without even knowing them essentially.
For more comments from Imraan Siddiqi, listen to the podcast episode here.