by Jeff Woods
Vandals spray-painted insults on a mosque overnight and left a hate-filled letter to Nashville's Muslims. Islamic leaders blame Channel 5's sensationalized two-night report about a crackpot organization's unfounded accusations of terrorist ties against a Middle Tennessee Muslim community.
"Muslims Go Home" and a Crusade-style cross were scrawled across the front of Al-Farooq Islamic Center on Nolensville Road, says Salaad Nur, a spokesman. He says the mosque, which primarily serves members of the Somali community, has contacted the police and the FBI.
"They also left a letter at the youth center that says Muslims are friends of Satan and we are here to destroy the United States and to destroy Israel and things of that nature," he says. "We're a little bit shaken up. I hope this is just a scare and things don't get any worse than this."
"It's unexpected," he adds. "The only thing I can think of is the sensationalized reporting [by Channel 5] over Sunday and Monday. That's the only thing I can think of. Even after 9/11 we have never had any vandalism."
We've asked Channel 5 for comment but haven't heard back yet. In an email to the media, Elias Feghali of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition says:
"This event is particularly troubling as it comes on the heels of a sensationalist report by News Channel 5 this past weekend about a long-time Muslim community in Dover, TN, who they initially insinuated as having links to terrorists (link). The Muslim community in TN has faced what seems like an onslaught of hatred and violence since 9/11, from individuals and groups determined to enforce their rigid worldviews on a peaceful Muslim Americans. It's vital that news organizations like your own remind Tennesseans that when it comes to hate speech and violence, Muslims in TN are on the receiving end. The majority of people in Tennessee want to welcome our new neighbors with open arms. Unfortunately, based on the rhetoric of hate groups, extremist radio personalities and sensationalist media, you would think exactly the opposite."
Update: Channel 5 just devoted all of 20 seconds to this vandalism in its 6 o'clock newscast. Rory didn't mention how Muslim leaders are blaming his station for it. "The weather is brisk to say the least," Vicki said, changing the subject as soon as Rory finished his little report. News director Sandy Boonstra never phoned back to tell us whether she thinks Channel 5 is guilty of inciting this vandalism.
Update II: Aunt B says, "It makes me almost feel dizzy, to know that people are doing this kind of stuff in the name of Christianity, and there seems to be little other Christians and the rest of us can do to put the brakes on this. I feel like every pastor needs to denounce this on Sunday."
Update IV: The City Paper's Sherry Phillips reports on the community pulling together after the hate crime.