Trump-inspired felon allegedly torches Ft. Pierce FL Mosque, says “All Islam is radical”

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Joseph Michael Schreiber stands accused of having carried out an arson attack against a mosque in Fort Pierce, Florida, about an hour’s drive north from West Palm Beach.

The mosque was burned down on the first night of Eid al-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice, a major Muslim holy day that in part commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command. The fire was set after midnight and it wasn’t until 5 am until the local firefighters could put the blaze out.

The small congregation of 100 vows to rebuild the edifice.

Those who want to contribute to the rebuilding can do so at this page by clicking on “support.”

The Fort Pierce Islamic Center had a web page that wished visitors “peace be upon you” and described itself this way:

“In the name of God, the Most Merciful and Most Compassionate,

The Islamic Center of Fort Pierce is the oldest mosque in the Treasure Coast area, located on West Midway Road in White City. The purpose of this mosque is to cater to the needs of the greater Muslim community by providing a wide range of services, activities, programs, and classes. Over the years, the mosque has been a central point for the Muslim community and the center has been used for events, lectures, meetings, classes, and much more. We strongly condemn all acts of terror and violence.”

It serviced a diverse community from 22 countries. Muslim-Americans in the Fort Pierce have been living in fear and suffering from severe harassment for several years.

Schreiber, 32, is single and is likely to remain so. He has a history of petty theft and faces 30 years in prison if he is convicted of the arson as a hate crime.

He at one point posted to his Facebook page a GOP National Committee picture showing Trump/Spence and the words “The team that will make America great again!”


It seems to me that Donald Trump bears some of the responsibility for the burning of the mosque and that the congregants should look into suing him.

Trump has said that “Islam hates us,” has advocated banning Muslims from coming to the United States and has baited President Obama for not using the phrase “radical Islamic extremism.” He might as well have handed the Fort Pierce arsonist a can of gasoline and some matches.

Schreiber at one point wrote ““IF AMERICA truly wants peace and safety and pursuit of happiness they should consider all forms of ISLAM as radical . . .”

He also attacked President Obama and Sec. Hillary Clinton.

Actually, Muslim-Americans have served in the US military protecting the United States from terrorist and other threats. The community is thought to be at least 3 million strong in this country and so comprises 1 percent of the US population. They are disproportionately well educated. They agree that women should have their own careers if they want them, and the women in the Muslim-American community have even more higher degrees that the men. Muslim-Americans have a deep history on this continent. Many Latinos in the southwest were of Arab Muslim heritage from Andalucia, who had been forced to convert to Catholicism but sometimes kept some Muslim customs. Muslims were brought from Africa as slaves from the beginning of American history in the time of the British colonies, and at least 20% of the slaves were Muslim. Since Muslim slaves probably helped build the White House, it is only right that the African-American son of an African Muslim now inhabits it.

Schreiber does not appear anywhere to have mentioned Omar Mateen, who frequented a gay nightclub in Orlando seeking dates and later committed a mass shooting there. It is alleged that Mateen may have stopped in at the Fort Pierce mosque two or three times a year and that he attended there as a small child.

It is extremely irresponsible for the press to put Mateen in the headlines and the lede about the arson, since there is no known connection, and the members of the Fort Pierce congregation aren’t responsible for him. Many are high-powered physicians curing local Floridians of their ailments.

Indeed, foregrounding Mateen, who was not living in Fort Pierce and did not commit his crime there, is a form of blaming the victim and would never be done with regard to other religions.

If there were an arson at the Christian church would journalists dig up all the felons who had gone there and mention them in the headline?

The story here is not that the Fort Pierce Muslim community deserved what happened to them. It is that they were attacked by a racist bigot who appears to have been inspired by the anti-Muslim hate speech of Donald J. Trump and his acolytes. And mark my words, this is only the beginning.

17 Responses

  1. The force to educate the Christian bigots of America is unfortunately is not strong enough owing to the powerful. Islamophobia,industry headed by evangelist preachers ,bigoted politicians, propagandist activists like Robert Spencer,Brigitte Gabriel ,Pamela Geller ,just to give a few names. Muslims are not able to counter attack. Also such things are not allowed in their faith. The great example of the Prophet’s sense of patience who bore insults,humiliation,physical hurt ,threats to life for a good thirteen years. Christian bigots should be made to understand that the Torah,bible and the Quran are not much different from each other. the name of Jesus is mentioned in the Quran far many times compared to that in the bible. A whole chapter on the Virgin Mary titled Miriam is devoted in the Quran. Apart from this Muslims believe in every prophet the Christians do ,starting from Adam,Moses,Jesus (son of God in Christianity) David, Noah,Solomon,Jonas and all the rest. Christian bigots are ignorant and should be seriously educated. Muslims of the US must take this as a sacred duty to educate the ignorant masses of the society that are harming america’s image as,a violent,intolerant bigoted country when its not. These trouble makers who spread false propaganda against Islam and Muslims should removed from media and their books banned and they should call be arrested. Muslims run mosques to bring harmony ,to give charity,to give succour and hope for the hopeless. Mosques,are humanitarian places like churches offering sanctuary and hope for the lost. So why burn them. These things dont even happen in third world countries. These bigots are bringing nothing but shame to a great democracy like the US.

    • Rezan, With all due respect for your faith and all…in the USA I have the right to say anything I want about anybody, no matter if it’s a bald lie. I’m allowed to blapheme your faith my faith or anybody else’s faith. I’m allowed to claim the earth is flat and rests on the backs of tortoises, Kachinas guard the entry to the underworld, etc. Or that that that the earth is a sphereoid and the the Zeus and Posiedon don’t exist! I can publish any of these ideas and the books cannot be banned.
      I can blaspheme Jesus, the Prophet, Pope, Buddah, Jupiter, Mary, or Cthulhu as long and as loud as I want. I can do all that in print, or on youtube or on a billboard (I guess..if I own the billboard), I can blaspheme in the radio spectrum, or with a can of spray paint, or with laser light or oil paint on canvas or with drums and bass or with an opera company and orchestra. I can blaspheme with shadow puppets or with sky writing behind an airplane. The state can not punish me for that. Granted it would not do much for my popularity, but I get invited to enough parties as it is. I like that. I also like that anybody who want’s to insult my core beliefs, like the spheroid earth, gravitation, tides influenced by the moon, thermodynamics, wave / particle nature of electromagnetism, pythagorean theorem etc. are free to do so in any way they like. The louder they do it the better I feel. That is one reason among many that I’m happy to live in this country at this time. USA 2016 that is.

  2. Hate speech is truly erroneous and only makes things worse. Trump cannot be sued because he did not directly suggest violence, despite his implications and knowledge of likely effects. He is campaigning by appeal to ignorance, selfishness, and the lower class desire to declare a yet lower class, diverting blame from oligarchy and sowing division among their opponents.

    • I don’t agree that Trump can’t be sued. The Southern Poverty Law Center sues groups all the time in connection to violent acts that they helped inspire.

  3. Prof. Cole,
    All know that t. CAN be sued; please be open and clear about your belief as to whether 1] can he successfully be convicted of incitement? Or, 2] are such suits are frivolous and pointless?
    Your response above to your reader leans toward no. 2.
    I welcome your clarification.

  4. Many in the media who report on Islam and Muslims are quite ignorant of Islam (the religion, its many manifestations on the human plane, its history and its diverse cultures and practices).

    I will pick just one ignorance in this post: membership of mosques.

    Often, the media suggests that this or that person is a “member” of this or that mosque.

    This gives the false impression that a Muslim has to obtain membership of a mosque to attend different services at it.

    Mosques are open places of worship and do not require a person to obtain its membership or agree with its imam or the group of people who manage it.

    Quite often, those who attend prayers at a mosque do not even know most of the people who visit that mosque.

    They go there, offer their prayers and come home.

    A Muslim generally goes to a mosque because it is close to, either his or her home or place of work, or the place s/he happens to be visiting, and there’s a mosque nearby.

    The usage of the word, “membership”, often causes an unfamiliar non-Muslim to think that a person who has committed a crime got his or her ideas from a mosque he or she has visited, and then falsely believe that others who also visit that mosque share the same criminal tendencies or approve of the crime.

    What will it take for those who report on Islam and Muslims to take the time to understand Islam and Muslims and their beliefs and practices and traditions, before they do their reporting?

    With inadequate understanding, their reporting is causing confusion and irrational fear of Islam and Muslims, overwhelming majority of whom are ordinary people trying to put three meals on the table, living peacefully, and are incorrectly associating crimes committed by a few Muslims with the mosques they have visited, often occasionally.

    • You don’t have to be a ‘member’ to worship in most Christian churches and Jewish temples, either.

    • I think Prof. Cole understands this very well, and chose the word “member” precisely to indicate that the criminal’s association with the mosque was incidental rather than regular, that is, his acts were not influenced by the particular mosque. Juan regularly clears up potential popular misunderstandings of Islam.

  5. Is the alleged arsonist one of Trump’s foot soldiers on Trump’s march of folly to “make America great again”?

    • Yes, it does look to be a march of folly whomever wins, with Trump marching against imaginary domestic devils and Hillary against foreign ones. Now if they could just lock arms and march around in a circle on the border somewhere, and leave civilization alone.

  6. It seems to me the expressed intention of the congregation to set about rebuilding their mosque is an illuminating illustration of their peaceful nature, and an undertaking which their dedication can achieve with joy. Suing Trump on the other hand would be embarking on a not very Islamic process of spiritually withering escalating ugliness and cost.

  7. Professor, we disagree. I believe the constitution gives everyone the right to run their fool mouth as long and as loud as they want. Like minded idiots who agree are also allowed. When criminal acts are done, the perpetrators should be well punished. Grandma said, “if you want to be dumb, then you had better be tough” I’m not ready to punish the “blowhard down at the other end of the bar” (my longhand for “Trump”) because of what some guy with poor impulse control does with his matches and fuel. They will rebuild their mosque better than original. Best of luck to them. Running yer mouth is NOT the same as giving a weak minded guy gas and matches, and I’m not even sure that giving a guy fuel and matches is all that bad because if he has any sense he’ll put the gas in is car and say “thanks, sucker”. Ingmar Bergman is not responsible for the people who watched his movies and then killed themselves. It’s your life. Watch the movie and decide what you want to do.

  8. Donald Trump, with top advisers who are bigoted far right wingers, has normalized hatred, bigotry and xenophobia. And, because he voices one outrage after another, he overwhelms the media such that he is not called to task often enough. His attitude, voiced today about China is, you can;’t blame someone if they get away with it. This is his modus operandi. And it works. Even recently here and on a left wing website a few days ago, I still see people making an equivalency between Trump and Clinton, some saying that Clinton is even worse. We are in a dark time in this country and even if Clinton wins, it is scary that between 40 and 45% of the voters buy into Trump’s rhetoric.

  9. trump is a bigot and provocateur. he exploits whatever he can impulsively and for no recognizable purpose. he has no decency.

    he is a reflection of ourselves as a nation. we should sue ourslves.

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