Threats, hate directed at Lynnwood mosque after terrorist attacks

By Warren Cornwall

Herald Writer

Within hours of the East Coast terrorist attacks, the calls began trickling into the Dar Alarqam Mosque in Lynnwood.

"It’s time for you people to get out of the country. Now," a woman’s hoarse, angry voice said on the mosque’s voice mail.

It was just the first of a flood of invective, fear, accusation and anger, peppered with occasional messages of support and concern, that filled the phone and confirmed the fears of county officials and others.

Speculation over the culprits behind the attacks, and repeated mention in the media of Islamic extremists as top candidates, spilled over locally Tuesday into isolated spasms of anger toward Muslims and Arabs.

In addition to the phone calls, the mosque’s sign along the street was splattered on both sides with black paint Tuesday. Snohomish County Sheriff Rick Bart said he received several calls early in the day from people urging him to investigate particular businesses affiliated with an ethnic group, and one person made a threat against that group.

Some Arab students at Everett Community College left class early, fearing they could be targeted by people angered by the attacks.

"They are afraid if they are out in the public right now they could be a victim for people who are angry and want to get revenge," said Van Dinh-Kuno, executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Forum of Snohomish County. The organization helps to organize language classes for recent immigrants at the college.

Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel, concerned about a possible backlash, urged Snohomish County residents to treat each other with respect, no matter what race or religion, and to not jump to any conclusions about who was responsible for the attacks.

The region is becoming an increasingly diverse place, he said, "and I would call on every citizen to be respectful of the diversity."

Bart said he was trying to contact leaders in different minority communities to tell them he was committed to protecting them and to encourage them to call law enforcement if they suffered any harassment.

"We’re really concerned about backlash," he said.

Lynnwood police were investigating the mosque vandalism Tuesday.

Dinh-Kuno said her staff was also speaking with people from communities with ethnic ties to the Middle East, urging people to call 911 if they receive any threats and to "stay very, very low key."

One leader of the Lynnwood mosque said he was saddened by the phone messages and the vandalism. He said people needed to understand that Muslims are Americans as well and are also deeply troubled by the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

"My message to them is we denounce such an act, and it’s clearly against the principle of Islam. We send our condolence to anybody directly affected by this," said Nasser, a member of the mosque’s board of directors. He asked that his last name not be published, fearing it would make him a target of further harassment.

The mosque is one of the few in Snohomish County and has been in the north Lynnwood neighborhood since 1993, Nasser said. He could not remember receiving such calls before.

The calls ranged from questioning their patriotism to asking whether the mosque’s worshippers were "declaring war against all Christians."

"He who lives by the sword dies by the sword," one caller said.

Some also called to express concern that local Muslims could be the victims of harassment and to offer support.

Comparisons between the 1941 Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attack abounded Tuesday, as people recalled the last time there was a major air attack on U.S. soil.

That comparison extends to the response by some along ethnic and racial lines, said University of Washington military historian Randolph Hennes.

Hennes recalled walking Seattle’s Chinatown district with his father shortly after Pearl Harbor. His father pointed out broken windows in storefronts of newly vandalized businesses.

Eventually, Japanese Americans living along the West Coast were forced from their homes into concentration camps during the war, amid fears they could serve as insurgents for the Japanese government.

Hennes recalled an initial wave of anti-Arab sentiment immediately followed the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City as well. That was eventually blamed on American extremists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

Such backlash from recent terrorist attacks may be augmented by the lack of an obvious enemy, Hennes said. After Pearl Harbor, people could focus their rage at the Japanese government.

"Then, you had a palpable, tangible, detectable enemy. What’s really so striking about this is we really don’t," he said.

You can call Herald Writer Warren Cornwall at 425-339-3463 or send e-mail to

Talk to us

More in Local News

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
No right turns on red gets a look, a bid to expand sports betting arrives

It’s a new week. Here’s what’s happening on Day 22 of the 2023 session of the Washington Legislature

A man was injured and a woman found dead Sunday night after an RV fire in Marysville. (Marysville Fire District)
Woman dead, man burned in Marysville RV fire

The Snohomish County Fire Marshal’s Office and Marysville Police Department were investigating the cause of the fire.

James Lewis
COVID still ‘simmering’ in the county, while booster uptake remains low

Meanwhile, flu and RSV cases have plummeted, suggesting the “tripledemic” could — emphasis on “could” — be fading.

Herald publisher Rudi Alcott
A note from the publisher

The Daily Herald publisher Rudi Alcott discusses our new publishing schedule and newspaper delivery by mail.

Locals from the group Safe Lynnwood gather in front of the Ryann Building on 196th Street SW to protest the opening of a methadone clinic in the building on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Despite controversy, Lynnwood opioid treatment center opens its doors

For weeks, protesters have objected to the center opening near Little League fields and a Boys and Girls Club.

CEO Amy King standing outside of a Pallet shelter. (Courtesy of Pallet)
After rapid rise, Everett’s Pallet hits milestone: 100 shelter villages

Temporary home manufacturer Pallet hires locals who have “experienced homelessness, substance abuse or the justice system.”

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Boil water advisory in effect for 75 Snohomish homes

A water main break resulted in outages and possible contamination Sunday. Service was expected to return by Wednesday.

Ismael Cruz-Sanchez speaks at his sentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Driver in fatal I-5 crash in Arlington gets 10 years

Ismael Cruz-Sanchez had a lengthy history with impaired driving. He pleaded guilty to killing Jason Vogan, 45.

The building at 307 Olympic Avenue, seen on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023, is home to the office of Omni-Mana Services in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Charges: Arlington drug trafficker masqueraded as a pastor

Prosecutors say Steve Parker led a double life, helping people in addiction while dealing drugs across Western Washington.

Most Read