Early Sunday morning, three suspects were seen spray painting vulgar images and racist references on the wall of the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield, Indiana. I attended the organization’s press conference the next day.
The room was filled with around a hundred people: Jewish, Christian and Muslim alike. I listened to the statements that different communities gave and I felt sad, frustrated, angry and most of all, sorry for the vandals.
I’m sorry that you view all those who practice Islam as terrorists, rather than individuals who are part of a religion that, like all other religions, includes some people with extremist ideology.
I’m sorry that you have never had the chance to engage in conversation with your Muslim neighbors, who share your religion’s peaceful and loving values.
I’m sorry that you think vandalism, with the deeper intent of disturbing a group of people with a shared characteristic, is an appropriate way to combat your fears.
I’m sorry that Indiana will allow you to be charged without addressing the bias that motivated your crime.
I’m sorry, but there is no room for your hatred here, in this room with people crammed against the walls, coming from all walks of life to lend support and love to our Muslim brothers and sisters.
I’m sorry, but your efforts to tear apart a community have only brought them closer together, with one another and with those around them.
And lastly, I’m sorry we did not reach out to you sooner, that you were not touched by the love we have to share, that you are under the impression that your Muslim neighbors, whose place in our society you attacked, would treat you with anything less than respect.