Police in a suburban community west of Chicago are looking for the person or persons behind a fake website that mocks a real mosque and associates its members with Islamic extremism. The website, which is designed to look as if it represents the Islamic Center of Wheaton, Illinois, promotes stereotypes about American Muslims, local CBS affiliate WBBM-TV reported Tuesday.
“The fake website was posted online with a radical twist to it,” Ahmed Rehab, executive director of a Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told WBBM-TV. To the contrary, the Islamic Center of Wheaton is a peaceful mosque and community center that has rejected extremism, Rehab said. Wheaton police are investigating, and CAIR asked the FBI to get involved.
The bogus site, which has a similar web address to the actual Islamic Center of Wheaton site, includes language that advocates violent extremism, as well as photographs of Muslim children carrying automatic weapons and waving the flag of the Islamic State group in the Middle East. The website also suggests that Shariah law, an Islamic legal framework that some Muslims follow, may be coming to the Chicago area.
Discovery of the website comes at a time when anti-Muslim sentiments have increased in the U.S. Community advocates, such as CAIR, report a rise in bias-motivated actions after the recent terrorist killings by Muslims in Paris and San Bernardino, California, last year. A poll released in December by the Arab American Institute showed that favorable attitudes toward Muslims in the U.S. dropped to 33 percent in 2015, down from 48 percent in 2010.
“The [fake] website also goes clearly in the direction of berating […] Christians who engage Muslims in interfaith dialogue,” Rehab said, according to WBBM-TV. “So it seems to me to be coming from within the radical elements of the larger Christian community that see Christian outreach to Muslims as problematic,” he said.