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Countering Islamophobia: One boy's message

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In the small town of Pflugerville, Texas, on Monday an unsettling scene greeted congregants at an Islamic Center: torn pages from the Quran were smeared with feces and left outside the mosque.

It was a “hate crime,” according to police. But so far, officials have not been able to track down the perpetrators.

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For 7-year-old Jack Swanson, the assault was an opportunity to share religious tolerance with the small suburban town outside Austin: Jack emptied his piggy bank’s grand savings of $20 to donate to the Islamic Center. The mosque estimates it will cost $150 to replace the damaged Qurans.

“Jack’s $20 are worth $20 million to us because it’s the thought that counts,” Faisal Naeem, one of the mosque’s board members, told ABC news on Wednesday. “If we have more kind-hearted kids like them in the world, I have hope for our future.”

It’s disgusting, it’s gross,” Laura Swanson, Jack’s mother, told KXAN News. “It doesn’t matter what you believe, what I believe, what he believes or anybody believes, all faith is important.”

Anti-Muslim backlash in the United States and other Western countries has been strong in the days following the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks, perpetrated by Islamic State radicals. On Thursday, two Muslim women in Toronto wearing hijabs were pushed on a train and called “terrorists.” Another Canadian in Quebec was arrested after publishing a Youtube video in which he wore a joker mask and threatened to kill an Arab every week. Police and the FBI are investigating a claim that multiple gunshots were fired at the Baitul Aman mosque in Connecticut. Another man threatened to firebomb an Islamic Center in Florida on Monday, leaving a voicemail where he claimed he would “firebomb you and shoot whoever is there.”

The picture is getting increasingly bleak,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There’s been an accumulation of anti-Islamic rhetoric in our lives and that I think has triggered these overt acts of violence and vandalism.”

Many, like Jack however, have taken symbolic steps to show support for America’s Muslim community.

“It’s become so commonplace where something goes wrong somewhere and people want to blame all Muslims,” said Mr. Naeem, “If anything, it’s a pointing indictment of the logical fallacy in our society’s way of thinking.”

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Other Muslim leaders have called for more stringent security measures to protect Muslims from potential backlash as the world continues to reel from the Paris attacks. Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, requested that US law enforcement officials implant additional patrols around mosques and other Islamic institutions.

“We urge public officials and presidential candidates not to scapegoat American Muslims,” Mr. Awad said in a statement. “And not allow Islam to be demonized by Islamophobes or by the anti-Islamic actions or terrorists.”