Following an acid bomb being hurled at a Muslim school in the Chicago suburb of Lombard, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) told Raw Story that the number of attacks on American Muslims has escalated recently due in part to the Republican Party's "Islamophobia machine" encouraging a tiny minority of extremists toward increasingly violent behaviors.
About 50 people were inside the Lombard school building for Ramadan prayers when the acid bomb exploded, according to area media. The unknown attacker reportedly filled a 7-Up bottle with acid and other materials, then threw it at a window. Nobody was injured, but worshipers said they heard a loud explosion when the bomb went off. CAIR asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Tuesday morning to immediately begin searching for the individual responsible.
For Illinois Muslims, Monday night's acid bombing marks the second attack on a Muslim-affiliated installation in less than a week. Police arrested 51-year-old David Conrad last weekend after he allegedly opened fire on a mosque in Morton Grove, Illinois, narrowly missing a security guard as worshipers prayed inside. The FBI said it would leave the investigation of the mosque shooting to local law enforcement.
"I don't know what's going on, other than it being the month of Ramadan with heightened activity at mosques nationwide," Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for CAIR, told Raw Story. "I think most of these things are related to the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in our society, generated by a well financed Islamophobia machine... The same kind of people cited by [Norway mass murderer] Anders Breivik in his manifesto."
The shooting incident occurred just hours after Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), a tea party favorite, told an audience that Muslims are "much more" of a threat to Americans than ever before, adding that people of the Islamic faith are "trying to kill Americans every week." His comments followed a conspiracy theory spun by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), who called for an investigation into whether Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is secretly controlling an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a Democratic member of Congress.
Though some well known Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) criticized Bachmann's call for an anti-Muslim witch-hunt, many Republican Party leaders defended it, including a top spokesman for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Both recent attacks in Illinois appear to be part of a growing emergence of extreme anti-Islamic sentiment across the country.
Just two months ago in Dearborn, Michigan, a group of Christian missionaries hijacked an Arab-American festival, walking through it carrying a pig's head on a pike and signs insulting the Prophet Mohammed. In California last week, an unknown person hurled pig feet at the site of a proposed mosque. In Rhode Island one week ago, a vandal smashed the sign in front of Masjid Al-Islam in North Smithfield. In Oklahoma on Sunday, vandals fired paintballs at the doors of the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City. And a suspicious fire that destroyed a mosque in Joplin, Missouri -- the second suspicious blaze there in about a month -- is still under investigation.
In the wake of these events, CAIR advised Muslim-American communities to begin taking their security more seriously. The group recommended installing video surveillance at mosques and schools, asking for additional police patrols, meeting with elected officials, documenting suspicious people and making off-site backups of important records.
"Whenever you have people with some measure of respect in society smearing Muslims and Islam, it's going to have a negative impact in terms of these kinds of incidents," Hooper concluded. "[They should] act responsibly and tone down this anti-Muslim rhetoric. Unfortunately, it seems that Islamophobia is now a plank of the Republican Party's political platform. It's really disturbing. When I get a call about another incident of anti-Muslim hatred by an elected official, I don't even have to ask what party they're from. It's always the Republican Party."
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