Published with permission from AlterNet.
While many well-meaning Americans would like to believe that Islamophobia is limited to certain less tolerant parts of the country or certain hateful presidential candidates, anti-Muslim hate crimes have not only increased all over the country, but are at their highest levels since the aftermath of 9/11, according to a new report. Analyzing crime data from researchers at the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernadino found that hate crimes against American Muslims were up 78 percent in 2015. Attacks against those perceived as Arab rose even more.
“The rise,” the report’s authors observe, “came even as hate crimes against almost all other groups — including blacks, Hispanics, Jews, gays and whites — either declined or increased only slightly.” Using police data from 20 states, researchers found 260 instances of reported hate crimes against Muslims, which is the most since 481 were reported in the months after 9/11. As a New York Times article on the report points out, “victims are often reluctant to report attacks for fear of inflaming community tensions, and because it is sometimes difficult for investigators to establish that religious, ethnic or racial hatred was a cause.”
Among the crimes, a former Marine in Connecticut fired his rifle into the door of a local mosque. In Minneapolis, a man screaming Islam shot two men seemingly because they were wearing recognizable Muslim garb. Even in diverse New York City an imam and his assistant were shot dead during their walk home from Sunday prayers, though the authorities have yet to confirm hate crime charges. In another incident in Brooklyn, two women pushing strollers had their veils ripped off by an obscenity screaming woman.
While reactions to attacks like that of the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando this summer, and earlier events in Paris and Nice were partly to blame for these attacks, it’s clear our current political climate has played a role. Brian Levin, the director of the center that conducted the study, told the Times that the “frequency of anti-Muslim violence appeared to have increased immediately after some of Mr. Trump’s most incendiary comments.”
The report found that said rhetoric has a tangible impact on crime data: “Our analysis of daily data following terrorist attacks found a tolerant statement about Muslims by a political leader was accompanied by a sharp decline in hate crime, while a less tolerant announcement was followed by a precipitous increase in both the severity and number of anti-Muslim hate crimes.”