Indiana is no stranger to hateâ€”the KKK flourished here after World War I, and then there's Ron Artestâ€”but Bloomington is a different story. Or was a different story until last week.
On July 9, not long after the London terror attacks, someone tried to burn down the Islamic Center of Bloomington. An unidentified attacker threw a Molotov cocktail into the mosque's kitchen at around 4 a.m. in an incident that is being investigated as a hate crime by the FBI. A burned copy of the Koran was found on the sidewalk outside.
Fortunately, there was a worshiper in the mosque observing early-morning prayers who was able to extinguish the fire before any serious damage was done.
The attack came as a shock to the city's residents and has put Bloomington's Muslim community on edge. Home to Indiana University, Bloomington is a little blue oasis in an otherwise solid-red state. Thanks to the university, Bloomington is one of the most diverse and tolerant small cities in the country.
Bloomington officials and residents were quick to condemn the attacks. Mayor Mark Kruzan pithily summed up the prevailing attitude: "The person or persons responsible for this action need to understand that they've just struck a blow on behalf of terrorism. They've chosen anarchy over democracy and insulted freedom." People at the Islamic Center reported being overwhelmed by well-wishers from the community who stopped by to reassure them that those behind the attack do not speak for the majority.
Unfortunately, a small minority of residents in Bloomington and the surrounding areas harbor more hostile feelings toward our sizeable Muslim community. A group from Old Paths Baptist Church in nearby Campbellsburgâ€”a group that is mentioned in an unrelated Time article about Christianity on campusâ€”regularly pickets at IU, harassing Muslims, Jews and sorority girls in short skirts.
This minority is also represented in the student body. On July 14, IU's newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student, printed a letter from a Hutton Honors College student named Mark Zacharias. The letter is shockingly ignorant for any college student, let alone for one who attends a division that focuses on community service and stresses the diverse and pluralistic nature of IU.