From last year’s Chapel Hill shooting to the execution-style killing last month of a Queens Iman to last week’s arson attack on the Florida mosque that Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen attended, 2016 has been the annus horribilis for Muslims living in the United States.
Indeed, a new report from researchers at California State University at San Bernardino, has found that hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. increased by a staggering 78 percent over the year-ago period–the most since the 9/11 attacks–with attacks against people thought to be Arab rising even more sharply.
Fueled by both imperialism abroad and the normalization of anti-Muslim political rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign, the new study, based on official police reports in 20 states, recorded 260 hate crimes against Muslims nationwide in 2015. That number is the most since 481 hate crimes were documented against Muslims in 2001.
“We’re seeing these stereotypes and derogative statements become part of the political discourse,” said Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the San Bernardino campus, to the New York Times. “The bottom line is we’re talking about a significant increase in these types of hate crimes.”
The increase in the frequency of anti-Muslim violence have occurred almost immediately after U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s most incendiary comments, he added.
Indeed, as The New York Times reported, police released a videotape in May of a woman who poured liquid on a Muslim woman after making disparaging comments about Islam and declaring that her vote was dedicated to Trump so that he could “send you all back where you came from.”
Mohammed Malik, a businessman who has attended for nearly a decade the mosque that was firebombed last week, told the New York Times that he is fearful of the increasingly toxic environment.
“There is a lot of negative rhetoric,” he said. “The negative rhetoric is causing the hate, and in turn the hate is causing the violent acts.”
Researchers involved in the study say that the rise in hate crimes against Muslims has come even as hate crimes against all other groups — including Black people, Latinos, Jews, and gay people — has either declined or increased only slightly. One exception however, the study noted, was hate crimes against transgender people, which rose about 40 percent.
“We saw it after 9/11, and we continue to see an uptick in allegations of hate-related incidents today following the tragic events over the past year,” said Vanita Gupta, leader of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division. “We see criminal threats against mosques; harassment in schools; and reports of violence targeting Muslim-Americans, Sikhs, people of Arab or South-Asian descent and people perceived to be members of these groups.”
Another report released Thursday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that 2016 is on track to have the second-most “bias incidents” against Muslim places of worship, with a spike in attacks against mosques in June and July after the Pulse shooting. It cited 16 counts of intimidation, 11 counts of harassment, 16 counts of destruction or vandalism, and six counts of physical assaults in the past year.