In the summer of 2017, I found myself in a mosque in suburban Minneapolis where a bomb had exploded not long before. It had already been a busy year for my beat, reporting on Muslim Americans, which had become synonymous with writing about suspected hate crimes, the destruction of mosques, and a constant parade of anti-Muslim rhetoric—from anonymous online trolls to prominent politicians.
I thought back to that morning in Minneapolis when I heard the news that at least one terrorist had murdered 49 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, at two different mosques. The attack was horrifying but also deeply familiar. If I was surprised, it was mostly by the location—a country with little experience of mass shootings.
Eight months before the Minnesota mosque bombing, a white man walked into a mosque in Quebec City and began firing on worshippers, killing six and injuring 19 others. The New York Times reported that he was “fixated on President Trump, the far right and Muslims.” About a month after that, another white man shot and killed two Indian immigrants in a bar in Kansas, believing they were “Iranians.” According to witnesses, he shouted, “Get out of my country,” before opening fire.
For every atrocity, it seems there’s a close call. In 2016, three men plotted to bomb a mosque and apartment complex in Wichita, Kansas, because of its high concentration of Muslims from Somalia. One of them referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” That plot was foiled.