On February 9, at 5:00 a.m., Daoud was awakened by the fire department. His Mosque and the home of the Muslim community was ablaze.
The community of 55 people at the maximum had purchased the building paid it off and was extremely proud that they had a home in the idyllic small town of Columbia in south Tennessee. The mosque was the only one within a wide radius and people from many small towns in the area came to worship there.
Three individuals had broken in, trashed the inside and tossed Molotov cocktails into the Mosque. They had spray painted several swastika and “white power, we run the world”. They were part of something called the Christian Identity Movement. Fortunately, they were arrested immediately and are awaiting sentencing.
Within a week, neighboring Muslim communities rallied and held a vigil at the sight. It was advertised an open to all. People from all faiths came and one of those was Reverend Bill Williamson from First Presbyterian Church. He had immediately sprung into action, collecting money during a service at the church and attending to present the money and take it one step further–offering a set of keys.
Reverend Williamson welcomed the displaced worshipers to visit the church. He brought Daoud and others to the Church and showed them to a room that he had set aside for them to use for meeting and prayers. He even offered to remove any symbols or pictures which might offend.
Daoud spoke of Williamson like a brother, someone he truly admired. “I was impressed with the clarity in which Williamson interpreted ‘love thy neighbor’”, Daoud said.
One of the things that struck me about in speaking with the community was the irony of it all. We’ve found a range of feelings towards Muslims in our travels. A lot of good words and thoughts, some negative. Some think all Muslims are terrorists. As Daoud said, they were now the ones attacked by terrorists. His child had been mocked in school, called a terrorist and teased mercilessly, as children often do to one another. It was a hard thing to hear—a child, the victim of terrorism, being called a terrorist.
Daoud was careful to point out that in the grand scheme of things, it was just a building, and no one was hurt physically. But, we couldn’t help but be reminded of the fact that a small minority of people can really devastate people—the world, nations or in this case, a community. It only takes a handful of people to do a lot of damage and no faith is immune to terrorism. In the end, much of the damage is heaped on the community from which it sprung.
A year has passed since the incident and the story has received little attention . It reminds us of the worst and best of humanity. In this case, two men of extraordinary faith and integrity carried their communities and rose above a potential conflict—two men, who should be applauded and recognized.Jonathan Hayden