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Bacon attack on an American mosque: prank or hate crime?

Strips of bacon spelling 'PIG' and 'CHUMP' were found in front of a South Carolina mosque Sunday. In post-9/11 America, pork – which is unclean in Islam – is a primary form of anti-Muslim protest.

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In light of such stories, as many as 1 in 5 Americans are incensed that they have to tip-toe around Muslim sensibilities in a country where the First Amendment guarantees nearly all speech, including hateful words and acts.

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So is pork a crime?

The bacon graffiti this weekend prompted CAIR to call on the FBI to investigate what they called a "desecration" that took place as part what the organization says is a broader pattern of intimidation being waged against Muslims around the US.

So far, police in Florence say the incident doesn't meet the criteria for a hate crime, but they are investigating the incident as a case of harassment.

Critics of Islamic culture in the US see CAIR's concern about the bacon attack as part of "stealth jihad" in which US-based Islamic groups demand that Muslim sensibilities be protected at all costs, all in a larger effort to make the US "Sharia compliant," abiding by the edicts of Islam.

"If Christians are expected to endure crucifixes submersed in jars of urine being represented as art, then Muslim Americans had better develop an appreciation for the attributes of the society in which they live and don thicker skins," writes a blogger on PipeLineNews, which posits itself as a group of investigative journalists focusing on the culture wars and national security.

American views of Islam slip

The share of Americans who have a "favorable view" of Islam has dropped from 41 percent five years ago to 30 percent today, according to an Aug. 24 Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life survey. Concern about Islam's influence on US society has entered the national political arena, as well, shown by a different Pew poll that found that 1 in 5 Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim – an 11 percent jump since a year ago.

"A lot of it has to do with the economy. There is a sense that life is unstable. The American public is under siege," John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, told the San Francisco Chronicle this summer. "So, foreign threats are magnified. In a lot of people's minds, there is this sense that this religion is associated with violence."

Experts like Mr. Schanzer fear that protests like the bacon graffiti in Florence can backfire.

"Besides it being inconsistent with American values, I think it's damaging to our security," he says. "There's no doubt that one of the best ways to prevent homegrown terrorism is to get good information from the Muslim community, and that is made much more difficult when Muslims feel there's a climate of intolerance in the country."

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