Originally published in Tikkun DailyOn Monday, the Islamic Society of Joplin — the only mosque within 50 square miles of Joplin, Missouri — burned to the ground in what authorities suspect was a hate-fueled arson attack.
This painful incident occurred a mere 24 hours after the Sikh temple massacre in Wisconsin, and the two tragedies broadcast to America (and to the world) the dangerous depths of Islamophobia and hatred for the other by white extremists in this country.
However, a different message is now being broadcast in Joplin, a town which just last year demonstrated its strong communal spirit in the wake of a devastating tornado. And it is a stirring message of tolerance and a rejection of hatred, a message that's being delivered in the form of both communal support and the sudden success of a donation campaign to help rebuild the mosque.
Local religious institutions have stepped forward, showing an outpouring of support and offering communal spaces where citizens can hold an iftar — the meal which breaks the day's fast during the Ramadan.
But perhaps the most amazing element has been the sudden success of an online fundraising campaign to rebuild Joplin's mosque. In less than 24 hours (at the time of this writing), nearly $160,000 of the $250,000 needed to rebuild Joplin's mosque has been pledged, with donations from across the country (and world) continuing to pour in.
And much of this is due to a Joplin high school student, Laela Zaidi, who wrote of her community and the need for interfaith understanding in a Reddit post that received much attention and directed readers to the fundraising site.
Here's Zaidi speaking with Al Jazeera's "The Stream" yesterday:
The United States is suffering from a widespread Islamophobia that we have allowed to infect our post-9/11 psyche, manifesting itself in arson attacks, Michelle Bachmann conspiracy theories and profiled surveillance initiatives.
As Glenn Greenwald wrote this morning:
Islamophobia in the United States is pervasive and intense, and worse, is as ignored and tolerated as it is destructive. The greatest harm from these incidents is not to the property they damage. It’s the climate of fear that is created for Muslims living in the United States. As I’ve written about before, it’s hard to put into words how palpable and paralyzing this fear is in American Muslim communities. It’s infuriating to behold: perfectly law-abiding citizens and legal residents feeling — rationally and accurately — that they are subjected to constant surveillance, monitoring, suspicion, denial of basic rights, hostility and worse solely because of their religion and ethnicity.Which is precisely why supporting Joplin's Muslim community is so critical, for doing so will send a clear message countering the streams of hate running through this country.
This happens because overt expression of Islamophobia is, far and away, the most accepted form of bigotry in mainstream American precincts.
A message directed not just at those who harbor such hatred, but a message to Muslims in this country that such hatred will not be tolerated.
It's a message you can help send by donating and helping Joplin to rebuild its only place for Muslims to worship. Together.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
Update:To read more pieces like this, sign up for Tikkun Daily’s free newsletter, sign up for Tikkun Magazine emails or visit us online. You can also like Tikkun on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
As of 8 pm E.S.T., barely 24 hours after beginning its online campaign, the Joplin mosque has raised over $214,000, just shy of its overall goal.
As of 8 am E.S.T., more than $260,000 have been raised, well exceeding the mosque's goal, with donations continuing to pour in. Amazing.
Additionally, this note on behalf of the Joplin mosque will address some questions that have been raised regarding whether the mosque was insured, and if so, why its members are raising funds:Many of you have asked about insurance coverage concerning the fire at the mosque. The mosque was insured; however, the amount is not enough to cover the cost of rebuilding the mosque or its interior, especially with the added security devices/systems we would like to have installed. Many of us would like to see the mosque rebuilt within the city limits, but members of the executive committee have not made a decision regarding this yet. Locating within the city limits, as opposed to the current rural location without street lights or much traffic, would decrease the response time of police and firefighters, should another attack occur. Also, a mosque inside the city would provide a greater chance of witnesses to an attack. Mosque members have also expressed the desire to build a concrete building, more resistant to fire damage and including a basement that would also provide shelter from tornados. I am sure many of you heard of the F5 tornado that destroyed most of Joplin, Mo in May of 2011. We also have to consider debris removal, which is very expensive. No definite decisions have been made about what type/style of structure to build, where to locate it, or whether to purchase another building that is already constructed. We will be sure to provide you more information as it becomes available.
The Islamic Society of Joplin is concentrating on finding a location for daily prayers, jummah prayers and upcoming Eid celebration. We are struggling to keep the rhythm of our daily lives in order, especially for our children. Our mosque was the center of our community. In the days of utter destruction after the tornado, it was the place where we met to support each other. Many families, including our Imam, lost their homes and everything they owned. Now, we are struggling again. With all the support of the community and the world, we are going to build a stronger, more secure mosque for our children. Any money donated in excess of the rebuilding amount will be used toward improvements to the mosque. For example, our children have never had a playground and we have never had a library room. Most of all, we want the technology to make us feel safe again. Thank you again for all you are doing to help us. May God reward you for all your kindness.