The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Burned Wichita Mosque Was Targeted With Anti-Muslim Letters

By Leah Nelson on November 2, 2011 - 1:56 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim

A Wichita mosque that for months had been targeted with anti-Muslim letters sustained heavy fire damage on Monday night.

Abdelkarim Jibril, president of the Islamic Association of Mid Kansas, told reporters that the letters insulted Islam and described the prophet Muhammad as a pig. They also included drawings mocking Muhammad, possibly spurred by the widely known fact that Islam forbids images of its founder. 

The letters stopped about a month ago. Since then, Jibril said, someone has been turning on the mosque’s outdoor water faucet at night in an apparent effort to run up the water bill. It is not yet known if the letters or the faucet sabotage are linked to the fire, whose cause has yet to be determined. Investigators will be reviewing the letters’ contents to see if a connection can be found.

In the meantime, officials say the structural damage to the mosque is so extensive that the building may have been “totaled.” Wichita fire Capt. Stuart Bevis told reporters that the severity of the destruction will make the task of determining the fire’s cause unusually difficult. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which joined the investigation along with the FBI, has used an accelerant-detecting canine to sift through the debris. Any evidence the dog finds will have to be confirmed in a lab.

“We’re not ruling anything out,” Bevis told the Kansas City Star. “What our job requires us to do … guarantees you slow down, look at everything, take everything into account. We’re not going to rush into anything.”

The rise in anti-Muslim sentiment in the last year has been palpable. In the wake of controversy over an Islamic center in lower Manhattan near the site of the World Trade Center attacks, propaganda from activists and politicians has vilified Muslims and more than a dozen states have taken up proposals to pass laws against the imposition of Islamic Shariah law — laws that are completely unnecessary but that have the effect of ginning up anger against Muslims.

If the Wichita mosque burning is found to be arson, it will be most recent in a series of apparently unrelated anti-Muslim and anti-Arab torchings committed in recent months. On Sept. 7, someone set fire to a rural grocery store in Clay County, N.C., that reportedly was owned by a Sikh family. (Sikhs, who wear turbans, have repeatedly been mistaken for Muslims and attacked in sometimes deadly apparent hate crimes.) Left behind at the grocery store was spray-painted graffiti, “911 Go Home.” A week later, arsonists hit a dry cleaning business in Orangevale, Calif., leaving behind a scrawled swastika and the words “fuck Arab.” The owners were Arab Christians and suffered some $60,000 in damage to their business. The FBI was investigating the attack as a hate crime.

On Oct. 24, a federal judge sentenced Henry Clay Glaspell of Arlington, Texas, to 14 months in prison after pleading guilty to burning down the playground at a mosque near his home.

  • Roger Smith

    now it’s the Muslims, maybe the Hindus, or the Buddhists. I’m so damn tired of bigotry. Why not have everybody just give it up for a year or so. What a radical, unchristian notion: next thing you know people will start practicing the Golden Rule! How un-American can you get?

  • Sam Molloy

    Hate speech does cause violence. I still believe moderate Christians, Muslims and Atheists far outnumber the violent fanatics looking for an excuse to commit mayhem, but we need to be more visible and audible.

  • Linnea

    Yes, it could have been accidental, but the fact that they’d been receiving hate mail in the time running up to the fire kind of tips the odds towards arson. The fire captain did say that they aren’t ruling anything out at this point.

  • Paulette Jaffe

    I am so sad and feel sick each time I see hatred raising it’s head.The actions of destruction come from those full of hatred brought on by fear which are learned, Unfortunately, many people don’t care to know the truth so they continue to perpetuate their ignorance onto generations to come. Terrorism is never acceptable; not matter who is commiting the acts. People need to get some education and understanding about the Muslim religion, their true beliefs and culture (which are tied together) so they can end their unfounded fears and growning hate. Understanding brings about peace and love. The most important commandment is to love one another (all mankind). And oh, yes, I agree with Stephen Henry’s above. The history is so true and these crimes need to be agressively prosecuted.

  • SAS

    My first response to this very tragic story is – was it really an act of arson, or an accident ?

    The above story does not make that clear at all, right now the incident is under investigation.

  • Scott Brooks-Miller

    “Its Kansas” is also a form of deragatory silliness, but never the less, turning on the water and sending leaflets with the culmination of burning down a mosque is not a regional for of hatred. It is hatred, bitgotry and stupidity pure and simple and reflects a growing bitterness between Christians and Muslims in this nation when we should be finding a common ground.

  • jokr8790

    Well, its Kansas. You kind of have to expect that from a state which encourages progeny from incest. It’s the only explanation you can have for their elected officials.

  • Aron

    Turning on the hose spigot to run up their water bill? That’s a truly nefarious and serious form of protest.

    These people get more and more pathetic as the days go by.

    And then they bomb the place. And remind us just how dangerous they are.

    I’ll take the water bill any day of the week, thank you.

  • Stephen Henry

    With all the hatred being whipped up against Muslims by blogs and radio shows, it is no surprise that pea-brained, cowardly individuals would target Muslims. Ideas and words have consequences. 100 years ago, Black men were being tortured and lynched weekly by mobs who were incited by racist demogogues. Today Muslims are the target. The Federal Government needs to aggressively prosecute these criminals and hate-mongers.

  • Mitch Beales

    “Burning down the playground?” As terrible as that is it is also really really pathetic.