At the beginning of this year, the team at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Washington launched a campaign that spoke to the persistent wave of hate facing marginalized communities nationally and across our state: “No Hate in WA State.” From synagogues and Black-owned businesses being vandalized to a seemingly endless stream of anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment emanating from the public sphere, our state is no stranger to this rising tide of hate.
Our chosen slogan came on the heels of the Trump era, where hate and vitriol were being openly displayed at the highest levels of government via policies like the Muslim ban, the refugee ban and the ongoing demonization of migrants. The slogan came with a glimmer of hope — that maybe with a new administration there would be a tempering of hateful and divisive rhetoric.
As we have recently seen, hateful rhetoric manifests itself as tangible hate crimes against our communities. Just ask the victims of the mass killings at Christchurch, New Zealand; Quebec City, Canada; El Paso, Texas; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Poway, California; Charleston, South Carolina, and countless others. Fueled by the never-ending torrent of misinformation being spread on the internet and exacerbated by Trump and the MAGA movement, our sacred spaces have been compromised.
We’re now almost at the end of 2021. In the past month alone, we have seen an attack on a Sikh temple in Federal Way, an arson at the Islamic Center of Tacoma with worshippers inside and, most recently, a blatant attack on a mosque in Mountlake Terrace. In the latter, two individuals entered the mosque’s prayer space with their shoes on, gathered up Qurans and other religious materials and threw them in a dumpster. Images captured from security cameras and shared widely in the community of the perpetrators taking part in such a deliberate, hateful act are haunting and vexing at the same time.
These recent attacks have put our communities on edge, asking, “Why would anyone do this to us?” In the case of the Islamic Center of Tacoma, the facility incurred such extensive fire, smoke and water damage from the attack that it cannot be used by the community until it undergoes major repair. The Gurmat Khalsa Center in Federal Way incurred tens of thousands of dollars in damage to their facility. This is the price of hate in our society.
These horrific events should serve as a reminder to all of us that hate is still very much alive and thriving in Washington state and beyond. Regardless of who occupies offices at the federal, state or local level, we must do better combating the bigotry and misinformation impacting our communities. It’s incumbent upon those who aren’t part of marginalized communities to stand up for and uplift those affected by hate. We need allies to hold their elected officials accountable for xenophobic and racist rhetoric. We need them to speak up when family members share corrosive misinformation on social media. These are small steps that we all can take to move society forward.
Amidst the tragic arson in Tacoma, there has been a glimmer of hope as the community has rallied around the mosque and its congregation, with elected officials and leaders showing up in support. The interfaith community has offered its solidarity and Tacoma College is providing a space for congregants to pray while the facility is rebuilt. A crowdfunding campaign to help with mosque repairs has now raised over $333,000 in just a few weeks’ time. This is the spirit of community and solidarity that will help ensure our slogan, “No Hate in WA State,” will become a reality if we work together.
Imraan Siddqi is the executive director at CAIR Washington.
Read more of the Nov. 3-9, 2021 issue.