On the evening of May 10, there was a small explosion and fire outside a Jacksonville, FL mosque. According to a fire department investigation and officials of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, worshipers heard a loud noise outside the mosque, and there was a small fire that was extinguished. The damage was described as “very minimal” by a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue spokesperson. Thank God, no one was injured in the attack.
According to the Council on American Islamic Relations, mosque officials reported that an unknown white man in his 40s entered the mosque on April 4 and shouted “Stop this blaspheming.” He was chased away by worshipers, but he reportedly said, “I will be back.” Now, it has been determined that the explosion was due to a pipe bomb, and it is being investigated as a possible act of domestic terrorism. “It was a dangerous device, and had anybody been around it they could have been seriously injured or killed,” says Special Agent James Casey.
Yet, you would not be faulted for not knowing that it even occurred. Most of the news coverage has been local in Florida. There has not been nearly the same amount of coverage at the failed bombing in Times Square.
Now, of course, the size of this pipe bomb is nothing compared to the size of the truck bomb allegedly placed by Faisal Shahzad. The mosque bombing was perpetrated by one individual, and it increasingly looks like the Taliban in Pakistan were behind the attempted bombing in Times Square. Obviously, an attack on Times Square in the middle of a tourist/theater district is much more of a story than an attack on a mosque in Florida.
But just as the Times Square bomb could have really done harm, the pipe bomb could have also done a lot of harm. FBI officials noted that the blast radius could have been 100 feet. In addition, The FBI Special Agent in Florida, James Casey, had added: “We want to sort of emphasize the seriousness of the thing and not let people believe that this was just a match and a little bit of gasoline that was spread around.” The attempted attack on Times Square was rightly called an act of terrorism. But, as this news report says: “The FBI is looking at this case as a possible hate crime, and now they’re analyzing it as a possible act of domestic terrorism.”
A pipe bomb that explodes outside a mosque causing a fire a possible act of domestic terrorism? What if a pipe bomb exploded in Times Square? Or outside a church? Would this be called terrorism? Of course it would…and it should. So should this attack on the Jacksonville, FL mosque.
It must be said that this is not the only incident of an attack on a house of worship. Black churches have been attacked in this country for decades, and people have been killed. It is an ugly stain on the fabric of our nation’s history. Yet, so is this. Houses of worship are sacred spaces that must be respected, protected, and kept safe.
It is heinous wherever it occurs: whether it is a church in Baghdad, a Church in Birmingham, a synagogue in Chicago, a mosque in the West Bank, or a mosque in America. And we should also call a spade a spade: a pipe bomb outside a mosque is terrorism. But, because no Muslim is behind it, it does not get much attention. This must stop.