Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Florida heavily dam aged from an arson fire earlier this month (Photo ICFP/ Facebook)
Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels last year since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to data compiled by researchers at California State University.
The report titled Special Status Report Hate Crime In The United States: 20 State Compilation of Official Data found that hate crimes against Muslims – including arson, murder, assault and violent threats – were up 78 percent during the course of 2015, with a particular increase in crimes that targeted people thought to be Arab.
According to the report’s author Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the San Bernardino campus, observes, ““The rise came even as hate crimes against almost all other groups – including blacks, Hispanics, Jews, gays and whites – either declined or increased only slightly.”
There were about 260 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015, the report notes. That’s the worst total since 2001, when a record 481 anti-Muslim hate crimes occurred. Hate crimes against Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent skyrocketed nationally in late 2001, following the Sept 11 attacks.
The report suggests politicians’ Islamophobic statements on the presidential campaign trail may have contributed to a climate of hate. Several Republican presidential candidates – including the GOP nominee – have called for shutting mosques, killing families of terrorists, waterboarding terror suspects, developing a religious test for refugee admission, and have compared Muslim refugees with rabid dogs.
“We’re seeing these stereotypes and derogative statements become part of the political discourse,” said Levin. “The bottom line is we’re talking about a significant increase in these types of hate crimes.”
He said that the frequency of anti-Muslim violence appeared to have increased immediately after some of Donald Trump’s most incendiary comments. And while the California State University report concerns the incidents that occurred in 2015, the rise in hostility against American Muslims seems to have continued this year as well.
Just this month, on September 12, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, Florida, the mosque that Orlando nightclub gunman Omar Mateen sometimes visited, was heavily damaged in an arson fire. Police later arrested a local resident in connection to the incident who had criticized Islam on social media.
On September 10, a woman yelling anti-Muslim insults allegedly attacked two Muslim women as they pushed their children in strollers in Brooklyn, New York.
In August, the 55-year-old Imam, Maulana Akonjee of the Al-Furqan Jamia mosque, in Queens, NY, was fatally shot along with his 64-year-old assistant. The 2016 hate crime statistics from the FBI are expected in November.