Monday, May 2, 2011

Islamic Community Center of Phoenix

Islamic Community Center of Phoenix (photo by Neil Lokare)
Entrance to the mosque (photo by Neil Lokare)

7516 N. Black Canyon Highway, Phoenix, AZ
The Islamic Community in Phoenix established a mosque at its current location in Central Phoenix in 1997. The growing Muslim population in Phoenix hoped to establish a larger community which began with a small congregation 25 years ago. Because of the expanding Muslim population, Community Center leaders are seeking funds to construct a permanent mosque that can accommodate up to 1,000 worshipers. Currently, the structure pictured above is only able to handle half of the capacity of the proposed mosque. (ICCP website).
On September 8th, 2010, the upgraded mosque under construction was the target of vandalism. The vandalism included spilled paint, broken windows, and graffiti. The FBI was called in to investigate the matter and some have theorized that the attack on the mosque was in response to the growing debate over the proposed Muslim community center in Manhattan. (Arizona Republic). Debate over the proposed community center has had obvious implications in Phoenix as well. The vandalism committed against the structure under construction serves as a reminder of anti-Muslim sentiment in post-9/11 America. The rise of this backlash stems from the view of Muslims as outside the cultural American norm. The rise of Islamophobia after 9/11 in combination with the debate over the proposed cultural center near Ground Zero has quelled public backlash from the American people towards Muslim-Americans. The Islamic Community Center of Phoenix is one example of private Muslim property targeted by those who feel Muslims are “outside” mainstream America, particularly Protestant Christianity.
            According to Mary Ann Zehr, in her article “Islamic Schools and Muslim Youngsters Report Harassment,” immediately after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center Towers, Muslim-American school children felt alienated, threatened, and ostracized by their peers. Such sentiments are echoed after incidents like these. As Zehr chronicles, “hate crimes are much worse than during the Gulf War” (Zehr, “Muslim Youngsters Report Harassment). The resurgence of vandalism of Muslim private property in Phoenix is an alarming trend that has serious political, social, and religious consequences and undermines social harmony by demonizing one distinct religion and its racialized group of adherents.
            The vandalism of the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix is much different than historic vandalism committed against Christian, Jewish, or other denominational structures because of this racialization of Muslims and Arabs. Because Arabs, from Saudi Arabia, who happened to be Muslim, attacked the United States on September 11th, all Muslims have now been equated with and berated for harboring terrorist sympathies, despite contrary evidence. Recently, the Muslim community has been singled out as sponsoring anti-American beliefs and sentiments. This fear is similar to the justification used to imprison Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The Islamic Community Center is a prime example of a particular religious community operating within the laws of the nation, expressing their religious freedom responsibly. But, the recent vandalism against the buildings emphasize the polarization of cultures in America, particularly the backlash against Arab and Arab-Muslim communities, many of which have existed in the United States for decades. The Islamic Community Center is hoping to raise $500,000 dollars for the project and has currently raised $65,000.
- Neil Lokare, Brandon Crockett, and Jerilyn Forsythe
Dalrymple, William. 2004. Islamophobia. New Statesman. 18-20.
Islamic Community Center of Phoenix Website. 2011.
Snyder, Stephanie. 2010. Phoenix Mosque Vandalism Being Investigated by FBI. Arizona Republic.
Spencer, Robert. 2004. 'Islamophobia' Revisited. Human Events, 60, issue 44: 17.
Street, Brian. 2005. Islamophobia and Racism. Anthropology Today, 21, issue 5: 21.
Zehr, Mary Ann. 2001. Islamic Schools and Muslim Youngsters Report Harassment. Education Week. 21:13.

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