Two separate armed right-wing militias have threatened violence against Muslims in small towns in Georgia and Kansas, respectively, as xenophobic rhetoric fuels Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign.
“We ask our nation’s political leaders, and particularly political candidates, to reject the growing Islamophobia in our nation.”
—Nihad Awad, CAIR
In Kansas, three men claiming to be members of a right-wing militia called the Crusaders were arrested and charged on Friday for allegedly plotting to plant bombs in a Garden City, Kansas, apartment complex that is home to over 100 Somali immigrants.
The bombing was scheduled for November 9 so as not to impact the presidential election, officials told the Wichita Eagle, which also reported that one apartment in the complex served as a mosque.
“It is very concerning and very disheartening,” Hussam Madi, spokesman for the Islamic Society of Wichita, said of the planned attack to the Wichita Eagle. “I thank God that they were able to be caught before anything can happen. We don’t need such actions here within our community and within our country.”
Another armed militia has also terrorized a rural community in Georgia, the Guardian reported Thursday, with repeated threats of violence that have derailed efforts to construct a mosque in Newtown County, Georgia.
Newtown County is “solid Trump country,” the newspaper notes.
The militia’s members call themselves the “Three Percenters” (claiming that only three percent of American colonists fought against the British in the Revolutionary War; the real proportion is far higher, according to the Guardian).
“They are training to fight both the U.S. government and enemies of the U.S. government,” the Guardian writes, “they wave both the American flag and the southern Confederate battle flag; they say they support the U.S. constitution but not the right of Muslims to express religious freedom.”
In a now-removed video posted online, militia members posed with guns across the street from the site of the proposed mosque and claimed the congregation “had ties to Isis training, the September 11 attacks, the Boston marathon bombing, the Fort Hood shooting and more. Its members, [a militia leader] said, followed the antichrist. Another man hung an American flag on what appeared to be the mosque’s future site, an act which would have required trespassing.”
Other video footage posted to a local Facebook group called “Stop the Mosque” reportedly showed armed and masked men detonating explosives and shooting guns in the woods.
County officials have temporarily banned construction of any mosque or church in response to the threats, and the local sheriff told the Guardian that he is investigating the group.
Additionally, on Friday two other instances of Islamophobic threats were reported: a woman allegedly threatened to bomb a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan, and anti-Muslim graffiti appeared on a mosque in Bayonne, New Jersery.
The Washington-based Muslim civil rights organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has reported that 2016 is “on track to be one of the worst years ever for anti-mosque incidents.”
“The majority of the 2016 incidents have been violent in tone, characterized by intimidation, physical assault and property damage, destruction or vandalism,” the organization wrote.
In the group’s recent survey of Muslim voters, “86 percent of respondents believe that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. has increased in the past year,” CAIR noted. “Moreover, 30 percent of respondents say they have experienced discrimination or profiling in the past year.”
“Given this alleged plan to attack a Kansas mosque, the two other hate incidents reported today against Islamic institutions in Michigan and New Jersey, and the overall spike in anti-mosque incidents nationwide, state and federal authorities should offer stepped-up protection to local communities,” said CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad on Friday.
“We ask our nation’s political leaders, and particularly political candidates, to reject the growing Islamophobia in our nation,” Awad added.