One of the biggest immigration-related stories of the year, one that I regret not having squeezed into my top-five list, also involved culture, religion, and a substantial dose of fear.
Nearly ten years after the World Trade Center attacks, a nationwide rise in anti-Muslim sentiment manifested itself everywhere from Ground Zero in New York City to Temecula, and many points in between. Citizens mounted protests against planned mosques from coast to coast, arsonists set fire to a mosque construction site in Tennessee, a Florida preacher threatened to burn copies of the Quran, and the overwhelming majority of Oklahoma's electorate voted to ban Sharia law from the courts, even if Islamic law had never been cited in one of the state's courtrooms.
The experience has left many Muslim Americans reeling. In the recent Bloggingheads exchange above, Egyptian-born columnist Mona Eltahawy describes the feeling she got seeing some of the news reports: "It was like looking in the mirror and seeing a monster in place of yourself."
If Temecula were a state, given the attention it is drawing lately, it could well be Arizona, albeit with wineries. In mid-July, the city drew clashing protesters when it adopted an anti-illegal immigration ordinance requiring businesses with more than one employee to screen workers using E-Verify, an otherwise voluntary online program provided by the federal government that allows employers to screen for immigration status and check Social Security numbers. It became the third city in the inland region, along with Lake Elsinore and Menifee, to adopt an E-verify policy as the region embraces anti-illegal immigration measures.
During a small protest that took place there this afternoon, however, the anger was not over undocumented immigrants or the rule of law, but over Muslims. In particular, those building a planned new Islamic mosque and cultural center near a Baptist church.