Senseless act mars Islamic Center

The Islamic Center on North 25th Avenue serves as a place for local Muslims to gather for worship in the Hattiesburg area. Susan Broadbridge/Printz
The Islamic Center on North 25th Avenue serves as a place for local Muslims to gather for worship in the Hattiesburg area.
Susan Broadbridge/Printz

As some of you may or may not know, something rather hateful happened almost two weeks ago.

Hattiesburg police began investigating an incident in which shots were fired at the Islamic Center on North 25th Avenue near The University of Southern Mississippi. Despite several shots fired at the building, no one was inside at the time. There were no injuries.

The initial reports of gunshots in that area came Tuesday, but it was not until Wednesday morning that Jerry Buti of the Islamic Center could confirm these reports by discovering the bullet holes.
So far the police have no leads or suspects in the case.

Now, there are not too many current events out there that can rile me up, but this vandalism – as it has been called – typically renders me livid. And it does not anger me because it is simply vandalism. It angers me because it is nothing short of terrorism.

Yes, I said it. People who shoot at mosques or other places of worship, no matter the reason or faith, are terrorists. Why on earth would anyone think it OK to go to this Islamic Center, pull out a gun, aim it at the building and then fire?

I have been in church services featuring missionaries who talked about persecution. They would tell long stories of how Muslims in faraway countries would terrorize the local Christians. What disgusts me is that this sort of thing is happening in our own city (quite literally right next door to USM) but in reverse. It is the Muslims who are being persecuted.

I’ll admit that I should not come to hasty conclusions about who committed this crime. It may not have been a Christian who shot at the Islamic Center. It could have been anyone. And this is also the first time anything like this has happened to the Islamic Center.

But regardless of the culprit’s background, this incident should never have happened. Under no circumstances should anyone fire shots at another person’s place of worship. Worse yet, while this may not have ever happened in Hattiesburg before, it sure has happened in other places.

What if people had been in the building? What if someone were seriously hurt?

And what is more bothersome is that when WDAM, the local news station, reported on this matter and posted it to their Facebook page, the comments were out of control. I can only assume so, anyway, since WDAM has a policy of deleting hateful comments and then commenting with that very policy.

But people were actually commenting with support for whoever was responsible? What, we’re all going to congratulate this terrorist?

Of course, there are always glimmers of hope. Many people commented with support for the Islamic Center, offering prayers and sympathy.

“Our prayers go out to the Muslim community in Hattiesburg,” said one of the better commenters, Dan Capper. “They are good folks who in no way deserve to be victims of a terrorist attack like this.”

Others offered up Bible verses talking about love for one’s neighbor. Now that’s the spirit! We should be working together, building each other up, not tearing one another down. We may not agree on various things like religion, but we can certainly respect each other as human beings.

I don’t mean we should all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” or anything. I’m not a world peace nutcase. But I would like for us all to start showing a little more respect for each other. Maybe then we could somewhat reduce the senseless violence on Earth.