Last weekend, Muslims around the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the feast that concludes their holy month of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
But amid the celebration, Muslims in America were also contending with an eruption of Islamophobia in the wake of the shootings that claimed the lives of five service members in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Unsurprisingly, many Americans viewed this attack as further justification for marginalizing Muslims, and confirmed the long-held stereotype that Muslims as a community are, at best, worthy of suspicion and, at worst, universally dangerous.
A few videos and posts that circulated over social media caught our attention for their blatant prejudice towards Muslims as a group. Rife with hyperbolic language and veiled threats, they advocated for a ban on the Qur’an and on future Muslim immigration to the U.S.
Franklin Graham: “We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S.”
On July 17, Franklin Graham, the son of famed pastor Billy Graham, posted a message to his public Facebook profile, referencing the shooting at Chattanooga and the “radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from Kuwait.” He then says
“We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized–and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad.” [emphasis ours]
He goes on to praise the policy of banning Japanese and German immigration to the U.S. during World War II, and urges his Facebook followers to contact their Congressmen to “put a stop to this and close the flood gates.” Graham’s post received more than 100,000 “Likes” on Facebook.
This isn’t the first time in recent months that Graham has been in the news regarding his comments about Islam and Muslims. Back in January, he succeeded in sidelining a Duke University plan to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer on campus, asking donors and alumni to boycott the university, and saying that “followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law.”
Jon Ritzheimer: “[Expletive] all of you!… Game on!”
The same night, Jon Ritzheimer, a resident of Arizona, posted a video in which he resorts to explicit language and shouting to air his grievances. Ritzheimer received considerable media attention after he organized an anti-Muslim rally outside a mosque in Phoenix, Arizona in late May.
“You [expletive] want to play politically correct and ban the Confederate flag, saying it promotes racism and slavery. Well, how about we now ban the Qur’an, because it promotes terrorism. How about that for political correctness? You want to play the game, let’s [expletive] play it. Muslims, you just [expletive] with the wrong [expletive] family! [expletive] all of you! [expletive] your book, [expletive] your religion, take it all and shove it up your [expletive] [expletive]! Game on mother [expletive], game on!
He posted the video with a comment saying, “rest assured there will be action!!!! I’m full on, friends.” He also encourages people to visit his page Rogue Infidel, where Ritzheimer sells “[expletive] Islam” t-shirts and posts things like “Your [sic] either American or your [sic] Muslim. Can’t have both.” After Ritzheimer’s video went viral, his Rogue Infidel page surged in popularity, going from dozens of followers to 10,000.
Earlier that day, Ritzheimer also posted another video, saying,
“Hopefully they keep weeding them out and finding more and more. Cause we know this ain’t it. The Muslim community is tight, they’re all friends with each other. There’s more in there. We’re going to find them.”
Florida Gun Enthusiast Bans Muslims from Store, Urges “Patriots” to Carry Concealed Weapons
Andy Hallinan, the owner of firearm store in Florida, also shared a video on the Facebook page for Florida Gun Supply. The long clip with dramatic music begins with Hallinan justifying his flying of the Confederate flag, and then warning his fellow “Patriots” that “we’re in battle…not only with Islamic extremism, [but] also… against extreme political correctness.”
After cutting away to coverage of the Chattanooga shooting on CNN, Hallinan explains says that the response of Florida Gun Supply to “the latest terror attack” is “going to be drastic.” He announces that their “concealed carry classes” are now free, and that their shooting range is open to the public without cost. “Take this opportunity to get armed, get trained, and carry daily,” he urges, “… in case we are ever called upon to defend our lives or our community.”
After implicitly casting Muslims as a dangerous enemy, he gets more direct:
“Now I have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all Patriots in my community. So effective immediately, I’m declaring Florida Gun Supply as a Muslim-free zone. I will not arm and train those who wish to do harm to my fellow Patriots. The jihadists said they would do it, and they have. They said they live among us, and they do. We must be prepared, viligent [sic], and equipped to handle any situation that may come our way. Don’t listen to the lies the leaders our country are telling you that Islam is not evil and that it’s just another religion. It’s not…We are in battle, Patriots, for our homeland, our security, and our way of life.”
After the video circulated widely online, local media outlets and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contacted Hallinan. In an interview with Fox 13 News in Tampa Bay, Hallinan confirmed that a representative of CAIR will attend his concealed carry class, after which the two will sit down and talk about Islam and the Qur’an. He also said they’ll host an event where members of the community can ask “open questions about Islam in a polite respectful manner and find out what the truth behind the matter is.”
“I’m totally open minded to the ideas that he’s presenting,” he said of the CAIR representative’s endeavor to educate him on Islam, “but I’m doubling down on my position, I’ve definitely done my research on Islam over the last six years.” When the reporter asked Hallinan what he thought Islam was all about, he responded “I believe that Islam is a violent, hateful theocracy that is designed to take over the world and kill as many non-believers as they can.”
“So you’re confident that this store, your shop, will continue to be a Muslim-free zone?” the journalist asked. Hallinan responded in the affirmative. CAIR has asked the Department of Justice to “investigate possible federal civil rights violations by businesses in Florida and New Hampshire that have been declared ‘Muslim free zones.’”
All three online posts implicate all Muslims for the actions of a few of their co-religionists, and point to a climate that is increasingly hostile toward Muslims. The rhetoric of Ritzheimer and Hallinan, who speak of “action” and “drastic responses” to “defend their communities,” verges on threatening.
The extreme positions held by Graham, Ritzheimer, and Hallinan are not just espoused by a few on the fringe, but — as evidenced by the vast number of shares and ‘Likes’ on social media — by a discernible portion of the American public. In a country where fear and prejudice has in the past translated into internment camps, profiling, and social exclusion, the rhetoric of these individuals and their followers must be addressed, before things get worse.