BG scholar: Muslims likely scared, but will rebound from mosque fireWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
BGSU scholar Marne Austin believes the fire intentionally set at the Perrysburg mosque will only further cement the Muslim community’s resolve to practice their faith.
“The community is resilient and they are some of the most intelligent people I have met,” she said.
Austin is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the School of Media and Communication who is focusing on the topic of Muslim identity in an anti-Islamic environment. We became friends while I was getting my master’s; I began to admire her when I saw her passion for interviewing Muslim women as part of her doctoral research.
“What saddens me most about it is the fact that it happened in an otherwise peaceful community,” Austin said. “The Muslim population has been here for decades. They are well-regarded and contributing members of society.”
Austin said the mosque is left open to the public because local Muslims want to be transparent and welcoming. The accused arsonist from Indiana violated that ideal by going into the mosque Sept. 30 and setting fire to the prayer area.
“This is a particular community that shows great integration, and the women I have interviewed don’t report any outright anti-Muslim sentiment,” Austin said. “It is sad because if there is one place where things are good for them, it could be here.
“Unfortunately, it shows that the best of places are subject to hate.”
While Austin said it is too early to label this a hate crime, she said any violence is a hate crime.
“It doesn’t have to be toward a certain group or religion. The fact that someone had to plan it and do it, it is hate.”
Austin has been encouraging Facebook friends to change their profile photo to the mosque. She is glad the arson is getting front-page attention, but wishes more Muslims would be asked — or willing — to be interviewed. If more people hear the Muslim perspective, they will realize this is impacting their friends, co-workers and neighbors, she said.
The Muslim women she has seen on Facebook are questioning why this is happening, while also asking for prayers.
“It would be a lie to say they won’t be impacted or won’t be scared. If this happened to a school or synagogue, people would be impacted, but I think they will be resilient and keep going,” she said. “They are going to pray outside the mosque; they are going to pray in their homes.”
And most notably, “Their first thought will be to pray for the man who caused the fire, not vengeance,” Austin said.
Email questions or comments to Toledo Free Press Community Ombudsman Brandi Barhite at bbarhite@toledofree press.com.