The hatred that sparked the terror attacks targeting New Zealand Muslims last week is not confined to the area. This week in Arizona, a man was arrested for threatening a local mosque. The 40-year-old Noel Becht was charged with threatening and intimidating, disorderly conduct, and trespassing, after he walked into the United Islamic Center of Arizona claiming to be curious about the Muslim religion but quickly displayed more nefarious intent.
After briefly sitting in on a prayer service, he began wandering around the mosque and entering private areas he was not invited to. After also asking “unusual questions” about the mosque’s service times and those of another in Tempe, one of the leaders questioned him about what he was doing — and Becht put his finger to his throat and made a sawing motion.
There is no apparent indication as to larger plans from Becht for an attack on local Muslims. The incident unfolded just days after an Australian white supremacist killed 50 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, mostly at two mosques. That shooter had prepared for his attack by purchasing an array of firearms, including at least two that he used for his atrocity.
Notably, in response, New Zealand authorities have rushed to adapt their gun laws to thwart potential similar future incidents. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asserted that her cabinet was “unified” in their desire to adapt the nation’s legal framework and there simply remain “details” to work through. To say that’s in “stark contrast” to the conventional American response to similar tragedies would be an understatement. Many of those on the right have made resisting calls for tighter gun laws after mass shooting incidents a core part of their agenda — just check out the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its many financial beneficiaries in Congress.
Even still, the United States continues to face an epidemic of gun violence, with at least 2,879 dead and counting thanks to the problem in the country just since January 1.
Similarly, as the Arizona incident makes clear, the United States also faces a continued threat from white supremacy — no matter what President Donald Trump says, having suggested that adherents of the ideology are simply “a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”
In fact, there are an ever-growing number of instances of white supremacist violence pockmarking the United States, from the violent “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one counterprotester dead to the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year that left 11 dead.
Overall, the Anti-Defamation League shares, white supremacists have been responsible for the vast majority of recent extremism-related deaths in the United States, including well over 250 from 2008 through 2017 and 18 in 2018. They have also reported that there were 1,187 documented instances of white supremacist propagandizing last year, up from just 421 in 2017. In the last three months of 2018, there were nearly 25 terrorism-related arrests in the U.S. where the plots were squarely domestic in origin.
President Trump routinely encourages the violence both implicitly and explicitly, falsely claiming undocumented immigration over the southern border to constitute an invasion that’s worthy of taking up arms against, having literally dispatched the military at one point — among other issues.
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