Carol Forsloff—“Burning a house of worship because of hatred toward members of one religion is not just an attack on that religion; it is an attack on our core American values,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez of the Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will aggressively protect the rights of all persons to worship without fear of violence or intimidation.”
With this Pere underlined how the federal government is clamping down on hate crimes, especially given the rise in attacks against Muslim meeting places as well as discrimination with reference to individuals.
In a recent case, a federal grand jury in Eugene, Ore., has indicted Cody Crawford, 24, of Corvallis, Ore., on federal hate crime and arson charges for intentionally setting fire to the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center.
Tthe indictment accuses Crawford of damaging religious property and setting fire to a mosque during the early morning hours of November 28, 2010. This happened less than two days after authorities arrested an individual in connection with the Portland Christmas Tree Lighting terror plot. The indictment alleges that Crawford set the fire because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of individuals associated with the mosque.
“Freedom of religion is essential to who we are as Americans,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon Dwight C. Holton. “We will not tolerate attacks based on faith.”
“The ability to live, work, and worship freely, without fear or intimidation, is the very foundation of our society. We cannot allow any person to threaten the rights of those citizens we are sworn to protect,” said Greg Fowler, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “Today’s arrest demonstrates our continued commitment to the FBI’s core mission: to protect our community and to protect the rights of all Americans as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”
Crawford faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of 30 years in prison if he is convicted.
The attacks on US mosques have increased since the death of bin Laden, according to Think Progress in a narrative about the problem that continues to heighten around the world. The article quotes states made by right-wing extremists who incite violence against Muslims and promote anti-Muslim sentiment. For example blogger –commentator Debbie Schlussel is said to have written, “One down, 1.8 billion to go…many of ‘em inside U.S. borders.”
Crawford who is now being indicted for a hate crime in reference to setting fire to a mosque refers to himself as a “Christian warrior” and said to an arresting officer, “You look like Obama. You are a Muslim like him. Jihad goes both ways. Christians can jihad, too.”
The atmosphere of hatred and distrust is further stoked by the belief that the President of the United States is a Muslim and has ties therefore to Middle East interests. The Pew Forum found that a growing number of Americans believe Obama is Muslim, a number at 20% a the time Crawford is accused of fire-bombing a mosque.