‘Anti-Muslim rhetoric’ cited after vandalism at Arizona mosque

Islamic Center TucsonOfficials with the Islamic Center of Tucson say a recent rise in “anti-Muslim rhetoric” may have spurred vandalism at the University of Arizona-area mosque.

Tucson Police Department detectives are investigating a Sunday-night break-in at the mosque during which someone smashed the lock on a side door, broke an office window, ransacked the office and wrote “Bush was here” in magic marker across a computer screen. Nothing was stolen, mosque officials said.

Mosque spokesman Muhammad As’ad said it’s possible Sunday’s break-in was a hate crime. “There’s an increasing obsession with Islam that’s been stirred up by a small cadre of people,” he said. “The obsession is growing because of events overseas. We deplore the hate speech going on. After all, Muslims, like Christians, are encouraged to love their neighbors.”

As’ad said an example of the “anti-Muslim rhetoric” was former CNN reporter Steven Emerson’s December lecture at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. Though he denied the accusations, local Muslims accused Emerson of being a disingenuous “fear-monger” who carelessly interchanges the words “Muslim” and “terrorist.”

Emerson spoke here as part of the UA’s Shaol Pozez Memorial Lectureship Series, sponsored by the university’s Center for Judaic Studies. The title of his speech was “The Grand Deception: Militant Islam, the Media and the West.” Emerson contends that groups representing themselves as mainstream Muslims often have terrorist ties.

As’ad said in addition to the Emerson talk, he’s noticed anti-Muslim attitudes on local radio talk shows. He stressed that, in general, the Tucson community has been supportive of the local Muslim community following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, though there have been incidents of name-calling, particularly involving local women wearing head scarves, in which people told them to “go home.”

Arizona Daily Star, 4 April 2007