The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Missouri Islamic Center had been defaced with pro-gay-rights slogans

Placeholder while article actions load

Looking into the “Man pleads guilty to defacing Islamic Center and burning the Qur’an” story, I noticed an aspect that wasn’t mentioned in the Justice Department press release. The press release describes the graffiti painted on the Islamic Center this way:

The graffiti included explicit and offensive language in addition to such statements as “Bash Back,” “Now is our time!” and “You bash us in Pakistan we bash here.”

But the plea agreement reports that the graffiti, put up in early 2011, contained “the following statements”:

(i) “Allahu Fuckbar;” (ii) “Queer insurrection;” (iii) “It’s okay to be gay!” (iv) “Now is our time!” (v) “Bash Back;” (vi) “You bash us in Pakistan we bash here;” (vii) “Allah was gay;” (viii) “[illegible] unite;” (ix) “Satanic trans” (with circle around Star of David above); (x) “Fuck straights;” and (xi) “Bash Back lives.”

And once one sees “Queer insurrection,” “It’s okay to be gay!,” “Allah was gay,” “Satanic trans,” and “Fuck straights,” this puts a different cast on the graffiti that the press release did quote — at least two and possibly all three of those statements also appear to be pro-gay-rights.

“Bash back!,” as discussed in Mount Hope Church v. Bash Back! (9th Cir. 2012), turns out to be a “national anarchist group …, which has described itself as largely composed of gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, and queer activists.” In the Mount Hope Church case, Bash Back! disrupted a church service in Michigan by shouting “It’s OK to be gay” (which also appeared in the Islamic Center graffiti) and “Jesus was a homo” (again, compare “Allah was gay”) “while flinging pamphlets, glitter, and condoms into the air.” See also this story about the settlement of the civil suit arising out of the protest.

“Bash back” also seems to be a phrase more broadly used by people speaking out against what they see as gay-bashing. See, for instance, this 2015 news story about a different “bash back” incident:

A business owner who sparked controversy by posting opinions on Facebook about refusing to serve certain groups, including gay customers, has been the target of vandalism….
[The business owner] posted … photos on his business Facebook page showing a red pick-up truck with the words “bash back” sprayed on the windshield and a garage door. Other photos showed a rock thrown through a window.

One can see the same in the Bash Back “queer mafia” comic, and the Wikipedia page about the Bash Back! group. Moreover, “now is our time” and our time is now” (see also here) also appear to be associated with gay rights, especially in this context, though I wouldn’t have noticed that if I hadn’t seen the other graffiti mentioned in the plea agreement. (“Now is our time” can also be used generically, but associated with “bash back,” “bash back lives,” and the other slogans, it seems likely to be a pro-gay-rights slogan.) Likewise, the reference to “you bash us in Pakistan” may refer to hostility to gays in Pakistan, though that is not entirely clear.

Of course, vandalism and threats of violence (more on that in the original post) are crimes regardless of the vandal’s motivation. People who view a religious or political ideology as oppressive are free to speak out against it, but not free to damage its buildings or threaten its adherents. But if you’re interested in the details of the crime, it looks like the message of the graffiti might be more complex than a quick read of the press release might suggest.