Protected by darkness last Thursday night, a hooded figure crept up to the Community Center of Masjid Al-Hoda. He smashed a window with an ax, painted anti-Muslim graffiti on the front of the Mosque and then, like the coward he is, ran away.
This afternoon, people of all faiths along with non-believers gathered with community members to let them know this attack was not just on the Muslim Community, it was on all of us. We were united as human beings who were appalled at the hate and racism behind this reprehensible action. We crowded into the center for an interfaith service and a discussion of what we could do to let it be known this action was not representative of what our community stands for.
This is the place I wrote about in “It Takes A Village” . Once called Little Rest, this is my little town. The Mosque is adjacent to the campus of the University of Rhode Island, where I attended college fifty years ago. I took this attack very personally, just as everyone else in that room did.
Last Fall, our church had gathered at this Mosque to share a meal, participate in a prayer service and gain a better understanding of our Muslim neighbors. I wrote about it in “To Infinity and Beyond”. It was an enlightening evening. They visited our church for a shared meal the following winter. I knew these people whose sanctuary had been vandalized. I was at a loss for what to say as they graciously welcomed me back.
I listened to all the speakers but was especially touched by the young man, who was the first to discover the vandalism on Thursday night. He spoke to us about the fear he felt when he saw the hate graffiti splattered in blood-red paint across the front of his place of worship. He shared with us that since that night, he could not get the picture of the graffiti from his mind – until this afternoon. Now, the faces of all of us gathered here to support his Muslim Community had replaced that picture. And he was no longer afraid to walk outside in the sunshine.
Another man said, he wanted to bring the vandal into his home to share a meal and get to know his family. He felt it was the only way to fight the ignorance which was at the base of this racist act and all of the other hate acts that seem to be filling our world today. We agreed education would lead to a better understanding of other nationalities and a greater respect for other’s religions.
Gathering our shoes from where we’d left them upon entering the Mosque, conversations continued as people slowly left the service. Many of us glanced over to the now white-washed board covering the broken window knowing it could happen at any of the places we consider to be our sanctuaries. And we realized we lived in perilous times and this is not a time to be silent.
Fear and ignorance visited Little Rest Thursday night. It has been a horrific week around our world once again. Eighty-four dead, two hundred innocent human beings injured in Nice. And next week the Republican National Convention convenes in Cleveland. Calling themselves “the law and order party”, republican leaders are trying to divide us by sowing the seeds of fear and ignorance with their rhetoric. We need to counter this rhetoric with our own – our belief that with diversity comes enrichment. This is truly not the time for any of us to be silent.
As-salamu alaykum – Peace be upon you.