Anti-Muslim Incidents in the U.S. Follow the Death of Osama Bin Laden

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When he announced the death of Osama bin Laden, President Obama acknowledged and echoed his predecessor, telling the nation, "I've made clear, just as President Bush did shortly after 9/11, that our war is not against Islam."

Not everybody listened. While the incidents are for the most part isolated, several public expressions of anti-Muslim sentiment have occurred around the country.

The Maine Muslim Community Center in Portland was vandalized, a wall spray-painted with the words "Osama today, Islam tomorow" and "Long live the West." The mosque serves a large Somali community in Portland.

A teacher was put on leave in Friendswood, Texas, after he reportedly asked a female student in his 9th grade algebra class if she was grieving over the death of her "uncle."

In Anaheim, Calif., eggs were thrown at the Fusion Ultra Lounge, even though the nightclub's owner, Mohammed El Khatib, had served in the U.S.'s armed forces and, after hearing of Bin Laden's death, said, "We're happy that he's gone."

In Paterson, N.J., the American Arab Forum received calls on Monday with a message for the "boss."

"It was more than one call, possibly the same person disguising his voice," Aref Assaf, president of the forum, told The caller spoke with the staff, not Assaf. "'Tell your boss that we got his friend and we're going to round you up, all of you,' something like that."

"It is unnerving, but when you're used to these insults, you try to develop a thick skin, or report the incident to law enforcement," he said. "This is the price of being an American Muslim, and a public one at that. It comes with the territory."

Daniel Mach, the director of the ACLU's program on freedom of religion and belief, cautioned that he was speaking "anecdotally" but said, "My impression is that there has been a spike. Bin Laden's death appears to be the latest in a recent string of events that have triggered anti-Muslim activity around the country.

"Sadly, some people will find any excuse to act on their hatred and bigotry," he added.

Aziz Siddiqui , president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, said he sees the incident with the teacher in Houston as one of "isolated incidents that have been going on for a number of years." He said he thought it was handled properly by school authorities and that it's not America that has "these biases" but certain types of individuals.

In Portland, police officials met with leaders of the mosque on Monday. "I went over there and we talked for some time about steps they could take if they see anything suspicious," said Portland Police Chief James Craig.

Craig called the incident "an anomaly" and said "it's isolated."

Education, those who spoke with said, is key.

Mohammed Dini, who emigrated from Somalia in 1997, is a member of Portland's Muslim community. A 28-year-old junior at the University of Southern Maine who ran for the state legislature in 2010 and won 40 percent of the vote, Dini says the people he's met in Maine are "great, warm, welcoming people. So there's a couple of bad apples everywhere."

Addressing the Portland mosque incident, he told, "It really raises questions. 'Are you really serious? Muslim Americans are Americans like anybody else.' I don't think whoever wrote that is well educated. I don't think they've used their critical thinking. The way I look at it, whoever wrote that needs to be educated."

Steven Wessler, the director of the Portland-based Center for Preventing Hate, said, "Americans have been conflating terrorism by a small population of Muslims with all Muslims.

Osama Bin Laden's Death: Anti-Muslim Incidents in the Aftermath

"What we've seen over the past dozen years, but dramatically after September 11, is an increase in anti-immigrant bias that doesn't seem to be slowing down at all. We go into schools with significant immigration populations, and students are reporting a pervasive amount of degrading language and jokes."

Addressing the vandalism at the mosque, Wessler said, "We can say it was just words – 'First Bin Laden, next Islam' – but I know from the work we do that you're going to see some students who interpret that as a terrifying message that they might be subject to violence. What gets left out is what number of Muslims who attend that mosque, or another mosque in Maine or New England, are now scared to go to mosque."

Says Assaf, in Paterson, "Our hope is to engage people who disagree with us in a respectful and informed matter."

Bin Laden's death has brought out powerful emotions. "Our feelings are very real and very strong," said Assaf. "We say, Good riddance."