On Monday night, I looked at my phone and noticed a breaking news update. Another white supremacist attempted a terrorist attack on a place of worship, this one being a synagogue. The name of the synagogue was Temple Emanuel. My heart sank.
In a matter of seconds horrible images flashed through my mind before I read closer and realized this wasn’t the Temple Emanu-El of Dallas, but in Colorado. I immediately texted Rabbi David Stern and Rabbi Nancy Kasten letting them know my heart was with them, and that this particular attack shook me because the name of the Synagogue was the one that belonged to my dear friends. In recent years, our text communications are often in the wake of an attack on a Synagogue or a Mosque. This time, David responded saying he actually hadn’t heard of the attack before my text reached him. Of course he expressed relief, as we all have, that the terror attack in Colorado thankfully was foiled.
But does the fact that the terrorist was stopped in his plot from taking the lives of innocent Jewish worshippers really mean that we can merely sigh in relief and move on with our lives? If terror is to provoke collective fear and uncertainty, didn’t it happen? In the year of 2019 where terrorist attacks against places of worship have increasingly risen, it’s hard to keep up with all of the places of worship being shattered by the scourge of white supremacy. Just last week, a terrorist set fire to a mosque in France and shot two people. Both fortunately survived. Most people I know, even those close to the Muslim community, have no idea.
But even more underreported than the terrorist attacks that actually succeed in causing physical damage to lives or property are the ones that continue to wreak psychological terror on our communities. When Jewish Community Centers around the country, including here in Dallas, received constant bomb threats in 2017, that was terror—even though no attack occurred, such as the one in Pittsburgh one year ago. When armed white supremacist militias stand in front of mosques in Dallas with AR-15s to intimidate, that is terror—even though thankfully no one has committed an act like the one in Christchurch six months ago.
I recently penned an open letter to the Sikh community that has bore the brunt of underreported bigotry in unfortunate, unique ways. Once again the Jewish community has suffered in a way that is unfortunately far too familiar to us all. And in this dark period of polarization that has made our country so unrecognizable to many of us, we owe it to each other to become more familiar with one another.
Imam Omar Suleiman is an American Muslim scholar, activist, and civil rights leader. He is the founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and an adjunct professor of Islamic studies in the graduate liberal studies program at SMU. He also serves on the leadership council of Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square and was named one of the 500 most influential Muslims in the world by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan. You can read Zac Crain of D Magazine’s profile of him here.