“God, help us!” I prayed as I read the headline: “Chemical irritant empties Islamic Society of Greater Dayton’s mosque.” “Has it come to this—an assault on innocent children?”
Just weeks after massive distribution of the film, Obsession- Radical Islam’s War against the West, in key electoral swing state newspapers across the US including Dayton, two unidentified men sprayed chemicals into a room full of children at a mosque. Did the distribution of an anti-Muslim film cause the attack? No one can say that for sure except the attackers. But in a post 9/11 world scapegoating Muslims as well as denouncing them verbally and attacking them physically has become all too common. Fueling anti-Muslim bigotry have been web rumors that Barack Obama is a “secret” Muslim hoping to take over the US and comments like the one from CNN host Glenn Beck who said to a Muslim guest “I mean, you’re reasonable. How do we know the difference between you and those that are trying to kill us?” Playing the fear card is incredibly popular today in the media and on the Internet across the US. We seem to be a country filled with people searching for someone to blame or to attack.
Now, ironically, as we come to the end of the holy month of Ramadan- a month when Muslims seek to instill patience, sacrifice and humility, we hear of an attack on children in a house of worship.
The Greater Dayton Interfaith Trialogue, formed after the 9/11 attacks, provided a discussion point for local Muslims, Jews and Christians to celebrate what could happen if people and their governments spoke up for peace, and for “others.” It has held important meetings and workshops designed to bridge the gulf that separates the faith traditions.
With the heaviness of grief on my heart, I call upon the good people of Dayton and across the US to reach beyond stereotypes of each other, to be done with appeals to fear, and to engage again in dialogue aimed at mutual understanding and reconciliation not hatred and cowardly attacks on children who are worshiping. We are a better people than this. God help us!
Rev. Dr. C Welton Gaddy, President, the Interfaith Alliance