Islamic Center Vandalized

Vandalism occurred to the Islamic Center construction site in Twin Falls over the weekend and a pot of flowers were also attached. This photo was taken Monday.

DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS

Donald Trump on Monday called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States, marking a new low in a political campaign whose hallmark has been to stoke a nationwide anxiety over national identity, immigration, race, religion and terrorism.

The more derogatory, racist and outlandish the remarks, the higher the mogul climbs in the polls.

But his statements this week on Muslims have drawn almost universal condemnation from political leaders across the globe, even from other presidential candidates from his own party who previously have been reluctant to challenge Trump’s discriminatory comments.

About time, and rightfully so. If Trump is trying to rally a base by stoking anger and fear, he finally may have gone too far. The pendulum, perhaps, is now swinging the other way.

We can’t help but see a parallel between the hateful national narrative at the center of Trump’s campaign and the appalling vandalism that occurred over the weekend at the mosque in Twin Falls.

Someone spray-painted the words “Hunt Camp?” (apparently referring to the southern Idaho internment camp that imprisoned Japanese-Americans during World War II) across plywood boards covering windows at the construction site of the mosque expansion on Addison Avenue.

The vandalism seems to suggest we round up Muslim-Americans, like we did the Japanese-Americans, and lock them in concentration camps. Of course, in Europe, a different variety of concentration camps were spurred by a night of vandalism against a religious group 77 years ago.

Clearly, Trump has reignited a sense of hate and fear that was already kindling in the Magic Valley since April, when the Times-News reported that Syrian refugees may be relocated here in Twin Falls over the next year. An escalating Syrian civil war, combined with unprecedented terrorist attacks in Paris and the mass shooting last week in San Bernardino forced the rest of the country into serious discussions over what we’ve been talking about in the Magic Valley for months: How do we balance national security with humanitarian obligations? Does religion matter in that discussion? What about our right to protect ourselves while still keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill?

All are good questions that deserve to be debated. But nowhere in this debate is there room for vandalism, hatred, racism or religious discrimination.

Unfortunately, blowhards like Trump and others locally who have aligned themselves against the college of Southern Idaho’s Refugee Center – and Muslims, in particular – with evil in their hearts, are poisoning this country.

Need proof? It’s literally spray-painted on a wall in Twin Falls.

In Trump’s case, he’s been allowed time and again to skirt by after making unforgivable comments – rapist Mexican immigrants, a national Muslim registry, black criminals – the list goes on and on. Not this time.

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Even Dick Cheney blasted Trump, saying, “His whole notion that somehow we need to say no more Muslims and just ban a whole religion goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”

Twin Falls’ reaction to the vandalized mosque has been just as harsh and swift. The Twin Falls Police Department is taking a “very aggressive approach,” saying the city will not tolerate “malicious harassment and hate crimes.” The department has assigned a detective to the incident – rare for cases of vandalism – and plans to pursue the crime as a felony.

Just as heartening, community members began to rally around the mosque within hours of the vandalism. Cathy Talkington, wife of Twin Falls Councilman Chris Talkington, showed up with cleaning supplies and paint. Others joined in. Someone left a red poinsettia.

“We got great support from many, many people. This (vandalism) does not reflect the majority of the community,” said Imad Eujayl, a spokesman for the Islamic Center of Twin Falls. “We understand that a few people can do this or one ill-informed person.”

Yes, one ill-informed person whose mind has been corrupted by implications that all Muslims are dangerous. Corrupted by those who allege that peaceful people seeking refuge here are actually terrorists in disguise. Corrupted by those who say the answer is to shut everyone out and arm ourselves to the teeth.

As long as the rhetoric, both nationally and locally, focuses on hate and fear, and not logic and tolerance, hate and fear is what we’ll get. Unless we change the dialogue, we can expect more vandalism.

Some are stockpiling ammunition and awaiting the Islamic terrorist invasion. We’re buying a few gallons of extra paint.

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