At 5:30 AM on Thursday, September 22, 2016, a man was inside his car when neighbors heard “There you go, Muslim,” before an explosive device was thrown into the victim’s car. The victim is badly burned on his face, arms, hands and legs, but was taken to nearby Temple Hospital and is in stable condition. The car was badly charred, with all four windows blown out.
However, the police are currently conducting a fire investigation, not an explosion investigation. Police have yet to comment on the case.
Philadelphia is home to over 200,000 Muslims, and 85% of them are Black. It’s referred to as the “Mecca of the West” with the fourth highest mosque count in the nation, behind Southern California, Chicago and Detroit. If this was a hate crime — which it was, as indicated by the statement of hostility towards a particular religious group, followed by an act of violence — that can’t just be overlooked.
North Philly is predominately Black, and has been historically marginalized since W.E.B. Dubois’s groundbreaking research for The Philadelphia Negro, until today. The community has high levels of deep poverty with a median household income hardly over $14,000, an education system that is underperforming and failing youth all across the board, and a thriving drug trade with heroin as the drug of choice in the Badlands. The community is viewed through the lens of criminalization and the “War of Drugs,” at the intersection of race.
Yet the community’s faith cannot be entirely removed from this equation. There has been a steep increase of Islamophobic attacks in the nation and City of Brotherly Love in the recent years, including a pig’s head being left outside of a local mosque and school in 2015.
As the trend continues, it is important to highlight the nuances of the attack in a nation that not only has a problem with Islam, but also boasts a track record of targeting and killing Black children, youth, adults, and elders.