Attack on Muslims Should be Condemned By All of Us September 30, 2008

Attack on Muslims Should be Condemned By All of Us

Here’s a story that deserves a little more attention.

On Friday night in Dayton, Ohio, a “chemical irritant” was sprayed into the Islamic Society of Greater Dayton mosque — into a room filled with mothers and their children (some of whom were infants) gathering for Ramadan prayers.

The 300 or so inside were celebrating the last 10 days of Ramadan with dinner and a prayer session, but the prayer session was interrupted so those suffering from tearing, coughing and shortness of breath could receive treatment.

[Dayton fire District Chief Vince] Wiley said an adult and juvenile were taken to area hospitals and others had their eyes or faces washed on the scene. He did not know how many people were treated at the scene.

This happened the same weekend that a movie called Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West was being shown to religious groups in the area. No connection between the movie and the attack has been made, though the fear-of-Islam card may have been played.

Obviously, there’s a difference between attacking peoples’ ideas and the people themselves. This crosses the line.

The mosque’s secretary, Ismail Gula, said that “he had received many calls of support from Christians and Jews over the weekend.”

As Humanists, we ought to send our support as well.

The number for the mosque is (937) 228-1503 and their email address is

Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance, had this to say:

“Interfaith Alliance calls on its members and friends, and all Americans who believe in religious freedom and all those who value religious liberty and equality to send a strong, unified message that we will not tolerate bias motivated violence of any kind. We need to let the Muslim community of Dayton, and across America, know that we stand with them against terrorism and that we condemn this senseless act of violence and the propaganda that helped to fuel it.”

(Thanks to Lyz for the link!)

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  • Becky

    I love how they’re saying it’s not a hate crime.

    If this happened at a christian church, by muslims, you’d better BELIEVE it would be considered a hate crime, and all over the US News.

  • PrimeNumbers

    No matter who does it, that kind of nastiness makes me sick. What a cowardly attack.

    Now, I fully believe in attacking ideas, free speech, attacking belief systems and religions, but hurting people like this is just wrong. We’re all people, humans, first and foremost.

  • David D.G.

    Agreed, this act was a heinous crime — and the mainstream media are being appallingly lax in covering it!

    ~David D.G.

  • mikespeir

    Attack on Muslims Should be Condemned By All of Us

    Yep. If these Muslims were peaceful before, they might feel justified in seeing things differently now.

  • I agree with all the sentiments here. This is just disgusting. And I second what Becky said, had this happened at a Christian church, it would be all over the news, and the perpetrators would most definitely be charged with a hate crime, as they damn well should be in this case.

  • SarahH

    I can’t believe that I’ve only read about this here and on PZ’s blog. That’s it. I understand that we’ve got lots of violence around the world to report, as well as some big elections, but a chemical attack (non-lethal but nonetheless heinous) on hundreds of Muslims observing Ramadan in the US seems like a HUGE deal in today’s political and religious climate.

    I’m glad the community seems to be offering support and condolences to the mosque, but this should be condemned on a much wider scale. I hope the perpetrators get more than a slap on the wrist.

  • Larry Huffman

    Well…all things considered, this should be treated the same whether it is religious/faith based or not.

    I am not keen on elevating the nature of a crime if is made against a certain type or group. Utterly contrary to our form of government and the idea behind our nation. What if the gas was released on a group of red-heads or left-handed people? hate crime? Why can it not just be a crime? I would think gassing people no matter what shows hate or disdain at least. No need to add the extra adjective.

    However…this is a great example of how people of faith do things. Some blow up buildings…and then later on others gas women and children.

    Does anyone wonder how on earth atheists get the tag of being uncaring? At least I care enough not to kill or gas people who disagree with me.

  • I think an attack on a mosque, or church would incite more fear, at least in the population which was attacked, than a general attack, say on a shopping mall. I recall reading that there are people who will no longer attend the mosque out of fear.

  • Polly

    I read about this yesterday but I forgot where I saw it, certainly not in the MSM.

    A close relative of mine believes that Obama is a Muslim and that Muslims are bent on extending the “global caliphate” over the USA and putting women into hijabs. So, I see this as the natural result of all the religious right-wing hysterics on radio and TV.
    Even if “Obsession” (or “Fitna” for that matter)didn’t play a part, what else can we expect once people start watching it in greater numbers? The film is being distributed in the mail mainly in swing states to influence the election to the benefit of McCain.

    Having said that, I was surprised at how relatively low the anti-Islamic hate crime rate is in comparison to other groups. (I have no basis to distrust the figures but, intuitively, it doesn’t make sense.)

  • Gadren

    @Larry Huffman:

    A lot of people seem to have the same misconceptions about the idea of a hate crime. Of course there’s no such thing as a “love crime,” but the reason why hate crimes are more serious is because they terrorize other members of the victim’s group.

    If someone spray-paints a threatening message on someone’s house, that’s a crime (both for the vandalism and the threat). But if, for example, the message was anti-Semitic, and painted on a Jew’s house, then that would be a hate crime, because the threat is directed, not just at that one person, but the group at large. If there was a Jewish community in the area, then that group would end up being threatened and affected in their lives.

    It’s why lynchings in the South were so serious: because they were done to “send a message” to the black community to terrorize them. It’s entirely reasonable for the law to consider the larger effect of threatening actions on a group.

  • Richard Wade

    This is a letter I have sent to Stuart Bechman, President of Atheists United in Los Angeles:

    Hi Stuart,
    I’ve been a member for several months now in the hope that AU can represent my views and wishes in a larger arena than I can as an individual.

    Today I have learned about an attack on a mosque in Dayton Ohio where an unknown chemical was sprayed into the building and into the face of a ten year old girl, making her and several others sick. This incident has coincided with the release of a video being viewed at religious groups in the area, titled, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” There is not yet any direct evidence that there is a connection, but the suspicion is obvious.

    Christian and Jewish groups have expressed their outrage at the attack and their support for the people of the mosque, which I think is an admirable and proper thing to do. I have already sent my personal message of support for the Muslim community in question, but I represent only an individual atheist. I would like to suggest that AU, representing atheists as a group should send a similar statement condemning this cowardly act and supporting positive dialogue between people of dissimilar views. We should not be seen as standing idly on the sidelines condoning by our inaction an attack on a group of people simply for their beliefs. We atheists certainly have suffered enough of that, and we should oppose it vociferously in any form against anyone.

    The news media has very poorly covered this incident, which, if it had been against a Christian church, would have been on national news. I am providing a link to the Dayton news service story:

    Please consider drafting and sending a statement to the people who have been attacked. If you think this is not appropriate, then I would appreciate your thoughts on why, so I can understand your point of view.

    Thank you for your consideration,
    Richard Wade

  • Richard Wade

    This is the letter I have sent to the mosque:

    Dear Friends,
    I want to say that I am sickened and saddened by the cowardly attack on your mosque and your people over the weekend. I hope that no one has suffered any serious harm, and I hope that your community can heal from the shock and violation that you, and especially your children must be feeling. I am glad to learn that Christians and Jews in your area have expressed their condemnation of the perpetrators and their support for you.

    Please let me, as an atheist, add my own words of denunciation of this disgusting and reprehensible act. I hope that relationships between your people and people of dissimilar views and beliefs can improve, and that respectful, positive dialogue can lead to better understanding and peace among all of us. I am only one individual living thousands of miles away in California, so I cannot do much more than urge my friends to take a similar stand against such ignorance, bigotry and hatred, and in support of your well being and your community’s recovery to peace and harmony. If there is anything more that I can do, please let me know.

    With Sincere well wishes,
    Richard Wade

  • Polly

    Richard, will you let us know if and how they respond?

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Becky: “I love how they’re saying it’s not a hate crime.”

    To be fair, I think the problem is that there isn’t evidence of a hate crime that would stand up in court. We can make an educated guess as to the motives of the perpetrators, but the perps kept their mouths shut and didn’t leave any messages behind, so the prosecution probably wouldn’t have that much to give to a jury on that point.

  • Inflicting physical violence upon another because of a belief they hold is an utterly indefensible act.

  • Richard Wade

    Polly, yes I’ll post any response here. You know, if you are curious, you could write your own letter to them… 😉 To others, please consider focusing on the incident this time. Posts about outrages like this often get distracted into a debate about the pros and cons of hate crimes or about whether it rises to the level of a hate crime. There are more important things to do.

    It certainly was a crime. It certainly was hateful. Leave the legal wrangling aside and let’s do more than pointless bickering. People have been hurt and intimidated. They need encouragement. Other people have been cruel and unlawful. They should be publicly condemned, caught and punished. Let’s not be like two people sitting in a burning building, arguing over what’s right or wrong with the current laws against arson.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Amen, Richard. I suspect that if they ever catch the guys who did this, they aren’t going to be pinning medals on them. Spraying a ten-year old girl with Mace or pepper spray (or whatever exactly it was) isn’t going to go down well with a jury, even if it can’t be prosecuted as a hate crime.

  • Even if “Obsession” (or “Fitna” for that matter)didn’t play a part, what else can we expect once people start watching it in greater numbers? The film is being distributed in the mail mainly in swing states to influence the election to the benefit of McCain.

    I don’t really buy that. Both films are good at exposing the violent nature of the dangerous religion of Islam. I’m very excited about Religulous coming out this weekend; is that movie going to be blamed for hate crimes as well?

  • Gabriel

    I think that if a group of muslims had shot tear gas/pepper spray into a christian church it would have been called an act of terrorism and homeland security would have come in, arrested a few dozen non-whites and sent them to Guantanamo as enemy combatants. Denied them their rights to counsel, their rights to habeous corpus, their rights to a fair and speedy trial, etc.

  • Richard Wade

    I got this prompt reply from Stuart Bechman, President of Atheists United in Los Angeles:

    Hi Richard, thank you for your e-mail.

    I agree that this is the kind of thing that Atheists United should speak out
    about. In fact, since it occurred in Ohio, I’m going to pass it on up to
    Atheist Alliance International, of which we are a member, and have them also
    send out a press release denouncing the attack. They will probably forward it
    to the other secular groups on the board of the Secular Coalition for America.

    Have you perchance signed up on our AU-ChurchState listgroup? That’s probably
    the best place we have to post issues and rally for action around issues like
    this. (It’s not just limited to violations of the First Amendment.) I’d love
    to have you posting articles like this as they come up to the listgroup so our
    advocacy subscribers can be aware and take action. You can sign up by sending a
    blank e-mail to:


  • James: “Both films [Obsession and Fitna] are good at exposing the violent nature of the dangerous religion of Islam.”

    Judging from what Taner Edis of Secular Outpost had to say, Obsession is mainly good at B.S. Fitna, IIRC, isn’t any better.

  • Tim Bob

    shouldn’t this be considered terrorism, isn’t that what the goal was, to terrorize. this should be getting heavy media coverage. Seriously even if this happend to an atheist group the coverage would be alarmingly more intense. I find it sickening that “assumption”—> because this is happening to muslims it is overlooked which passes on the implication of acceptablility. i do however find myself slightly offended at this comment –> “Interfaith Alliance calls on its members and friends, and all Americans who believe in religious freedom and all those who value religious liberty and equality to send a strong, unified message…” why are we still focusing on religion here, this was a crime against human beings, STOP INCLUDING RELIGIOUS BELIEFS IN THIS!!! I dont care who the hell you are or WHAT your beliefs are or if you even care about religous freedoms! If you are a HUMAN BEING you should be pissed off at what happend! If you live and breathe you should be appalled affiliated or not this is disgusting!

  • Polly


    Both films are good at exposing the violent nature of the dangerous religion of Islam.

    I am amazed that atheists buy into the biases of Christianity. Xians see Islam as a threat mainly because their fairytales are competing. Why we should adopt the stance of favoring or denigrating one over the other is beyond me.

    I haven’t seen any of these movies, but from what I’ve heard Fitna and Obsession are about as relevant to the practice of Islam by about a billion Muslims as a documentary of Fred Phelps is to Xianity – or the Old Testament is to Xianity and Judaism.

    I doubt that “Religulous”, which I also can’t wait to see, fits into the same category as these hate-fueled, politically-driven hit pieces.

  • timbob

    Given the multitude of religious wars on the front at the moment i would think it’s safe to say that damn near ALL of them are political films. you know a hundred years from now Iraq will be considered a Christian VS Islam engagement. It’s sad that it takes a hundred or so years for people to see things as they really were. When they’re not still caught up in the B.S. surrounding these events it’s easier to see them as they REALLY are.

  • Polly


    Thanks for sharing. I agree with everything you said.
    So, now, I’m feeling “convicted”, as I used to say, to do something helpful. 🙂

  • Brainerd

    As some of the readers may not recognize, if you follow the link now, it goes to the new story pointing not only do the police have no evidence of a hate crime, they seem to have little evidence of an actual attack. They did find a pepper spray canister nearby, but they couldn’t even find trace elements of pepper spray on the girl who made the accusation or in the room. Weird, huh?

    If it is a hoax — and I just don’t know what happened here or not — then it wouldn’t be the first hoaxed anti-Muslim attack in the Dayton area.

    Just sayin’.

  • Darryl

    James, listen to Polly. We don’t need to amplify the Christian Right’s paranoia.

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