Which Americans are really at risk of being victims of religious violence?

Public parks exist to serve everyone. So when a group of Muslims decided to pray at Bay Area park in Alameda County, California earlier this week, they thought they were doing something that was well within their rights.

That was apparently too much for one passerby to handle, and she decided to take it upon herself to harass the peaceful prayer group by interrupting them with a rant on their beliefs.

According to KCRA News, “A park ranger at a Bay Area park intervened when she saw a woman hit a man and throw her coffee at a group of Muslim men praying in the park after a conversation about religion, park officials said Wednesday.”

“The people you tortured are going to be an eternity in heaven,” the woman, identified as Denise Slader, told the prayer group, adding, “You are very deceived by Satan. Your mind has been taken over, brainwashed. And you have nothing but hate.”

Her comments were caught on video by one of the Muslim men. After her initial rant, a parks ranger tried to intervene, telling Slader that what she was doing was inappropriate.

Slader apparently didn’t understand. “It is inappropriate, you’re right, for somebody to tape record me, it is inappropriate,” she responded.

The man making the video, Rasheed Albeshari, who later posted it to Facebook, tries to explain the situation to the parks ranger.

“This lady was talking about my God, she was saying…”

But before he can finish, Slader attacks him, attempting to knock the camera out of Albeshari’s hands, hitting him with an umbrella and throwing her coffee at him, according to parks spokesperson Carolyn Jones.

Here’s the video:

It’s an unfortunate situation, but sadly not all that unusual. In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris and following the shootings perpetrated by a married Muslim couple in San Bernardino, California, violence and threats of religious violence against the Muslim community are on the rise.

Which one of these people looks like a terrorist? (Image via Twitter)

Which one of these people looks like a terrorist? (Image via Twitter)

In one incident, armed protesters gathered outside an Islamic mosque in Irving, Texas following afternoon prayers there. As if that intimidation wasn’t enough, the protesters later published the names and addresses of several followers of Islam. The individuals on the list had opposed a measure in Texas aimed at “blocking Muslim influence” in the state.

In Pittsburgh, a Moroccan immigrant taxicab driver was shot by his passenger after a lengthy car ride in which the passenger had questioned whether the driver was a “Pakistani guy.”

These acts of violence against Muslims are distressing, and are all but encouraged by the political right’s refusal to distinguish between terrorists and peaceful practitioners of a major world religion. When political and community leaders freely imply that the average Muslim is a dangerous maybe-terrorist, that hate flows downhill, and culminates with prayer meetings in public parks being disrupted by actual religious fanatics.

Most terrorist attacks in the Western world aren’t even based on religion at all. Only two percent of attacks over the past five years in Europe were committed by terrorists motivated by Islamic beliefs, for example. And in the US, more terrorism is carried out by conservative extremists than by Muslims.

Take another look at Denise Slader’s rant. She says Muslims are brainwashed and filled with hate. But who struck who first? Who struck who at all? The Muslim men, despite being hit and having coffee thrown at them, reacted angrily, but only in their words. Denise Slader attacked them without provocation — with a park ranger standing right in front of her — apparently too overcome with her own hatred to care about the consequences of her actions.

And she isn’t alone.

It’s fair to say that many Americans are at risk of being victims of religious violence. But before we decide whether to impose travel bans on a particularly dangerous religious group or monitor them without due process, we’d do well to sort out who’s posing the threat, and who’s really at risk.

Chris Walker has been a political writer for more than ten years, contributing freelance opinion pieces to several online publications as well as managing his own blog, Political Heat, for more than six years. With a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism, Chris tries to bring a unique angle to every article he produces, including Millennial perspectives on the issues he's covering. Chris resides in Madison, Wisconsin, and proudly owns both a cheesehead and stock in the Green Bay Packers.

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7 Responses to “Which Americans are really at risk of being victims of religious violence?”

  1. crazymonkeylady says:

    Us Atheists. Almost everybody hates us!

  2. ComradeRutherford says:

    “It is inappropriate, you’re right, for somebody to tape record me, it is inappropriate,” she responded.

    She went on to say, “I should be allowed to act like a hate-filled religious bigot and be violent towards those I accuse of being a hate-filled religious bigot – even though those folks aren’t the ones freaking out – all without anyone else knowing. There should be no repercussions to my actions, because I have been *that* successfully propagandized by right-media.”

  3. 2patricius2 says:

    That is why I call such upbringing abusive.

  4. BeccaM says:

    “And you have nothing but hate,” this woman ranted.

    I guess her house has no mirrors whatsoever in it.

  5. Naja pallida says:

    I think the question comes down to what you consider to be violence. Sure, there are plenty of egregious examples like the one cited in above, and maybe this is a root cause, but I consider the damage done to anyone who grows up in a fundamentalist household, who essentially becomes incapable of functioning outside of their narrow mindset, to be far more damaging to society on the whole than any number of incoherently ranting coffee throwers.

  6. goulo says:

    That ranting bigot Denise Slader in the video seems like she belongs with the haters at Westboro Baptist Church.

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