Federal agents are investigating a suspected arson attack that destroyed a dump truck at the site of a mosque and Islamic community center under construction in rural Tennessee. Protesters have tried to block the project — some objecting to the traffic, others insisting the 15-acre facility would be a haven for terrorists — and a sign on the land had already been vandalized twice. But after the fire incident, "everyone in our community no longer feels safe," says Carmie Ayash, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro. Was the mosque fire just a standard crime — or something more ominous? (Watch a local report about the incident)
It's terrorism, plain and simple: "Let’s be blunt," says Jay Bookman at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The fire was "an act of domestic terrorism, directed at peaceful people — many of whom are no doubt American citizens — who want nothing more than to live and worship in peace." This kind of incident, like the protests against the Islamic community center near Ground Zero, represents a "vile and un-American" form of discrimination.
"Terrorism strikes in Nashville suburb, 800 miles from Ground Zero"
No, this is probably just a local land-use squabble: The leaders of marches against the Islamic center, says Joshua M. Ward in Sidelines, say they merely object to the impact such a huge project will have on the neighbors — who didn't receive proper notice so they could fight the project before it was a done deal. The fire may may look like a "hate crime," but more likely it's just a protest against a poorly planned development project.
"Controversy continues over new Islamic Center"
This fire is disturbing because of the larger context: Let's not pass judgment on this incident just yet, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. But we can pass judgment on the people who have been poisoning the public discourse with their "anti-mosque rhetoric" recently. Without their "hateful" and "bigoted" verbal attacks on Muslims, the torching of a dump truck might have been dismissed as a harmless act of vandalism — instead it struck terror in the hearts of law-abiding, innocent people.
"Fire at site of Tennessee mosque project ruled arson"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Grammar quiz: Do you know the passive voice?
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Hey, Paul Ryan's new poverty plan isn't completely terrible!
- Why charity can't solve society's deepest problems
Subscribe to the Week