Author, talk show host, community activist, animal rights advocate Dr. Charlotte Laws is taking action to try and counter a fetid chunk of Islamophobia. A press release from her office:
Dr. Charlotte Laws, TV host, author and Los Angeles resident, says No! to Islamophobia. She is fighting back against a Florida gun shop owner, who is selling “Muslim Free Zone” signs for front lawns.
Laws has created “Muslim Welcome Zone” signs for her property and has offered them to neighbors who wish to join in her fight against Islamophobia. “I have one thing to say to this bigot in Florida: No!” Laws says. “Our country was founded on religious freedom. The first clause of the First Amendment guarantees it. It is important to promote tolerance and acceptance for religious plurality. The anti-Muslim tone in the country is disturbing, and I hope others will join the cause.”
Hate crimes against American Muslims and their businesses have tripled since the Paris attacks. There have been a whopping 38 incidents in the past month.
“My neighbors include Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Protestants,” states Laws. “Our street is becoming a “no go zone” for bigotry. Laws states, “It is vital that Americans are clear about the distinction between terrorism and religious freedom.”
Laws says, “In my own little way, I want to stand up for two things. First, rationality, and secondly, not to be afraid. Targeting an entire religion, as this bigot in Florida has done, is entirely irrational as well as completely un-American.”
And I hate to use the word, but I say “ditto” to that. With a name like “Gandelman” I can’t be confused with a Muslim and I’ve been treated wonderfully by the Muslim family I lived with in Bangladesh, the Muslim head of that family who spent a week with my parents and I in the late 70s at our house in Woodbridge, CT., the Muslims in business here in San Diego, the big Muslim school that had me do a show for them in my non-writing in carnation, and the mosque that also invited me to do a show and go through the buffet line for an event there. I could go on and on about this list.
And, yes, there is a danger that those who are seeking political power, ratings, or website hits by going after Muslims could contribute to some Muslims losing their lives. Today there was this troubling story:
Police in Richmond, California, on Sunday arrested William Celli, days after receiving a tip that the 55-year-old was allegedly building homemade explosives with the intent of targeting the local Muslim community.
Shortly after the arrest, San Francisco’s KPIX reported that police evacuated an area around Celli’s home while the bomb squad investigated the interior. Officers removed at least one suspicious device from the property and detonated it before allowing neighbors to return to their homes. Police haven’t clarified whether the object was actually an explosive, or whether it would have been ready for use if it was.
A spokesman for the Richmond Police Department confirmed to The Huffington Post that Celli was booked into Contra Costa County jail on charges of possessing an explosive device and making criminal threatsCelli’s arrest comes at a time of heightened concern in the U.S. about both homegrown and foreign terrorism. But most of the scrutiny and fear has been directed toward Muslim communities around the country — even though white supremacists and right-wing extremists are routinely responsible for plenty of violence here.
Celli doesn’t fit the profile of the “terrorist” who is likely to be invoked on cable news or on a GOP debate stage. In fact, judging by Celli’s Facebook page, he seems to be the exact inverse: a disgruntled white man who has bought into the xenophobic rhetoric of people like GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Earlier this month, Trump called for a temporary ban on all Muslim immigrants into the U.S., a proposal that invited widespread derision from people of all political stripes.
Nobody knows what Celli thinks of that particular talking point, but on his Facebook page, he does express admiration for the real estate mogul. In an October post, Celli called Trump a “great point man,” saying that he’d “follow this MAN to the end of the world.”
In another post, he refers to an “invasion” of “illegals.”
“I have lost 30% of my business to to Hispanics coming to my country under false pretenses … and freeload in construction or in the blue collar sector they need to go back home lets not talk about the welfare they suck dry,” Celli wrote in June 2014, a year before Trump announced his bid for the presidency.
Trump obviously didn’t create these sorts of opinions, but he has succeeded in propelling them into the mainstream. His campaign has won the support of white supremacist groups and other racist organizations whose views are typically relegated to the political fringe. And it can’t be denied that Trump’s campaign events have been marred by incidents of violence — and that the candidate himself doesn’t always seem horrified by it.
Welcome signs like those put up by Dr. Laws might be a useful start — and antidote.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.