Let’s imagine a scenario. A middle-aged Muslim man takes to social media to rage about perceived injustices, spewing racism and bigotry. Christianity, in his eyes, is the scourge of humanity, threatening his already crumbling castle in the sand. His unemployment status — no doubt the work of immigrants and refugees keen on robbing his country of its culture and religion, and him of his income — is just the cherry on top of a sundae of grievances.
In his Facebook posts, he extols the virtues of a fervently racist and anti-Christian Presidential candidate, asserting proudly that he’d follow said leader “to the end of the world”.
Christians, he argues, should be purged from his country, sent back to “their” countries, regardless of where they were born.
His Facebook page is teeming with anti-Christian and anti-immigrant sentiments.
Eventually, discontented with Facebook statuses and determined to make a larger impact, this Muslim man goes to a Church function in his community, shouting insults at the attendees, threatening to kill them all.
Later that same day, the Muslim man posts on Facebook again. This time, it’s a picture of a homemade bomb with the caption “Built it all by myself lol”.
Although the authorities have been alerted to the very real and imminent threat posed by the Muslim man, more than two weeks pass before any action is taken.
Eventually, the man is arrested and his home is searched. In his home, they find an explosive device, which they later detonate in a controlled area.
Now imagine that despite the hatred directed at Christians, the threats of violence, and the fact that he was in possession of a weapon capable of inflicting significant damage, he was only sentenced to 90 days in prison.
Plot twist – This is what really happened
All the above is true, except for a few details. The man’s name is William Celli, a 55-year-old Christian from Richmond, California, an impassioned supporter of Donald Trump . And his vitriol was not directed at Christians, but at Muslims.
On December 4th, Celli stood across the street from Richmond’s Masjid al Rahman (The Islamic Society of West Contra Costa County) as the Friday prayer was winding down. He was shouting obscenities at the congregants, as well as screaming, “I’m going to kill you all.”
On that same day, Celli posted a picture of a homemade pipe bomb to his Facebook page. The picture was later reported to police by a childhood friend of Celli’s, Maria DiLoreto Banks.
“I know Billy, but I haven’t seen him in a while and I didn’t feel comfortable because God forbid something happened and I didn’t do anything about it,” Banks told The Guardian.
Despite the incidents reported to the police, Celli was not arrested for another 16 days.
Following his arrest, Celli was charged with uttering criminal threats, with a hate-crime enhancement. He later entered into a plea deal with the prosecution, pleading guilty to violation of civil rights.
Celli was sentenced to a short 90-day prison sentence, 3 years probation, and will be required to attend anger management classes.
The implication of his shortened sentence is clear: Terror plots against Muslim communities elicit little more than a slap on the wrist.
This is especially disappointing considering the shadow of three recent terrorist attacks to rock our collective psyches. We were reminded after the recent attacks in Iraq and Pakistan that killed 25 and 70 people respectively how little Muslim lives are valued.
Coverage of attacks on Muslim lives are limited in the media. More concerning is there are no appropriate precautions to protect Muslim communities from terror threats.
Instead, minimal provisions are made, like anger management classes and 3-month prison sentences.
The perpetrators are labeled as crazy, deranged, or angry. They are in need of anger management, not imprisonment, and are lightly chided, though hardly deterred.
When Craig Hicks shot and killed his young Muslim neighbours Deah, Yusor and Razan at Chapel Hill, he was angry over a parking space. When Mohamedtaha Omar, Adam Mekki, Muhannad Tairab were found shot to death in an apartment, they were dubbed victims of gang violence, despite having no gang affiliations. And when William Celli explicitly threatens to kill Muslims, and is found in possession of the weapon that would enable him to do so, he was “violating the free exercise of civil rights”.
With the Cellis of America continuing their endless tirades against Muslims and people of color, minimal safeguards have been enacted to ensure their security. Apparently, threatening the safety of Muslims is no big deal.