In the small town of Joplin, Missouri an arsonist targeted a local mosque in 2012 and succeeded in completely destroying the building. At the time, a member of the Islamic Society of Joplin said that “This incident should not stop us from worshipping our God. We are going to find a place probably to continue our service to God” (Smith, Calhoun and Imam, 2012). Two years later, in July of 2014, they found that place and opened their new $2 million mosque. At the opening, Iftikhar Ali, president of Joplin’s Islamic Society said, “Getting the mosque back is like getting our home back” (Fowler, 2014). Muslims immigrating to the United States have the right to build their own houses of worship, but in post 9/11 America that freedom has come under attack. As immigrating Muslims move into small towns and suburbs across the United States, they are following a model of dispersion rather than concentration, stimulating anxiety in closed communities. While the model of concentration was the norm for generations of immigrants to the United States such as the founders of Chinatown and Little Italy, the model of dispersion is becoming more commonplace. Immigrant communities are now rarely grouped together in tight-knit communities with what planner Kevin Lynch would call clear edges, nodes, and landmarks (Lynch, 1960). Rather, members of many of these communities are scattered in the sprawling suburbs of American cities. Immigrants are still drawn to certain cities, but the physical embodiment and enclave model of their nation is no longer an identifiable community. In addition to localized
and visual ethnic markers, there are symbols of national reference that attract attention – the mosques and marketplaces – sites that stage cultural and religious practices. The repercussions from this model can be profound, and are not just in the form of attacks on religious symbols but also in the new state of surveillance that immigrants – especially Muslim immigrants – now endure. In fact, a federal judge ruled in 2014 that the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) surveillance of mosques in order to identify “budding terrorist conspiracies” was legal (Associated Press, 2014).