The majority of news outlets have framed the arson as a reaction to the attempted bombing of the Pioneer Courthouse Square Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, allegedly a Political Islamist jihad effort by Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, who now faces trial. Mohamud’s lawyers have indicated that they will argue during trial that the case is one of FBI entrapment. Mohamud apparently attended the Salman Al Farisi Mosque a number of times.
Politicians, the law enforcement and the media are as quick to condemn the arson as they are in failing to analyze its roots.
The merging of racism and anti-Muslim rhetoric is further demonstrated in such claims as that Barack Obama is a “secret Muslim” and is not actually an American citizen—frequent themes within sectors of the Tea Party and similar movements. “Muslim” becomes a code for not truly American and, because discussion about American identity is so heavily racialized, also takes on racial connotations. Such rhetoric, no matter how irresponsible and incorrect, has a real impact on public opinion and creates a context in which actions such as the Corvallis mosque arson become more likely. All it then takes is a trigger.
The attack on the mosque was an act of anti-Muslim bigotry that made all people of the Muslim faith to blame for the (disputed) actions of one individual Political Islamist. It further connects to racism against people of Middle Eastern and North African decent, as well as against those from the Horn of Africa. Mohamed Osman Mohamud is a US citizen born in Somalia; members of the Portland Somali community have spoken out against the danger of his arrest leading to further xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment.
Over a month has now passed since the Corvallis mosque arson. Rose City Antifa strongly condemn anti-Muslim prejudice that paints a historically-unsupported picture of Islam, and which plays into racism. We also oppose the blanket statement that Islam has always been a “religion of peace”—just as with Christianity, this has far from always been the case in practice. We continue to oppose xenophobic and racist beliefs in which people are lumped all together by reason of a supposed national, ethnic or racial affiliation. Our organization believes that we need more than simple knee-jerk condemnation of the most immediately visible violence. We need solid analysis of the origins of racism, that which enables it, and our own options for combating it. We take note of crossover between anti-Muslim organizing and the far-Right, such as the attempt of a participant in Eugene, Oregon’s Pacifica Forum to teach an anti-Muslim course at a local community college. We see our opposition to anti-Muslim bigotry as part of an overall antifascist project, and are happy to have successfully argued for the Anti-Racist Action Network to integrate opposition to Islamophobia into its Points of Unity at the Network Conference in Portland during July of last year. We intend to make good on this political commitment, by continuing to look at the intersection of racist and anti-Muslim organizing.