Over the weekend, the word "JIHAD" in bold and black letters materialized on the side of 1-95 North near Delray Beach, without a word of explanation.
Next, on SW Fourth Avenue, police found a sticker emblazoned with the word "Jihad" clinging to an electrical box.
Was this all the work of a harmless prankster? Or something much darker?
Some people have decided to fill in the blanks.
It doesn't take much to call forth Americans' latent feelings of Islamophobia -- even a word at an intersection seems to do the trick -- and spark a grand conflation of Jihad and radicalism with traditional Islam. And this recent example is, sadly, no exception.
And the tweets have poured in.
Black, White, Christian and Jew come together in outrage against 10 ft tall Jihad sign on 1-95: http://t.co/9cBIsnTBev
— Georgia Blue (@CureOurCountry) June 16, 2013
— Dr. WhitePower (@THERACISTDOCTOR) June 17, 2013
Then, the author behind the conservative blog, Fire Andrea Mitchell, authoritatively wrote that "Muslims" were behind the graffiti. "No individual Muslims have been caught from this," the author wrote. "I wonder how many Mosques there are in the area."
This was in response to a CBS12 segment, which showed a man named Damon Rosen embroiled in an ugly confrontation with another man over the graffiti.
"You're brainwashed!" the man yelled at Rosen.
"Take that shit back to the Muslim land! Take that shit back to Allah!" Rosen bellowed, as a woman wearing a baseball cap and waving an American flag guided him away from the argument.
"It's just a fucking word!" the man responded. "It's just a fucking word!"
"It's time for people to wake up," Rosen said later in an interview. "Before we have another Boston bombing. Before we have another 9/11."
The commentariat, in response, has been merciless.
"DARK CLOUDS OF JIHAD," intoned one commenter on a blog called Atlasshrugged2000, "gathering over the Sunshine State."
On YouTube, Carol Bellinger wrote: "They must not realize that Jihad means a holy war, which means to secure a holy place beside Allah, you must kill a non-believer... Now that is scary."
(Actually, as defined in the Quran, the term Jihad specifically means "to struggle in the way of Allah," and is used 41 times in the Quran, most often in description of someone "striving in the way of God." Though some scholars of the Quran say the word can also denote military pursuits.)
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