Hate crimes against Muslims and mosques across the United States have increased three times since the terror attacks took place in Paris and San Bernardino late last year, with dozens of such incidents occurring within only a month. According to a recent study by California State University, the sudden spike in numbers includes arsons, assaults on hijab-wearing students, vandalism at mosques and shootings at Islamic businesses.
While President Barack Obama as well as civil rights activists had already warned Americans of Muslim backlash, especially in California, the university’s analysis is the first to document the sudden rise, amidst a wave of anti-Islamic statements from several politicians.
“The terrorist attacks, coupled with the ubiquity of these anti-Muslim stereotypes seeping into the mainstream, have emboldened people to act upon this fear and anger,” said Brian Levin, a criminologist at California State University, San Bernardino.
Levin, who heads a hate-crimes research team, Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, at the university, offered the findings of his study to The New York Times. According to Federal Bureau of Investigation data that was analyzed by Levin’s research team, there has been an average of 12.6 suspected hate crimes each month against Muslims in America in recent times. But the crimes seem to have escalated following the terror attacks in Paris on November 13 and San Bernardino on December 2, with 38 being carried out after the first and 18 after the second.
Even though the frequency of the recent assaults has not reached the levels recorded in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terror attack in 2001, when hundreds of Muslims were indiscriminately attacked, with some Sikhs being mistaken for Muslims as well, Levin said that the nature of these hate crimes is similar to those that took place then.
“I’m saddened by this but not surprised,” he said. “Whenever we see intergroup conflicts making headlines, we often see a spike in hate crime accompanying it.”
One week after the Paris attacks, a sixth-grade student in the Bronx was reportedly assaulted by three boys, who attempted to take off her hijab, beat her and called her Islamic State. A few days later, a college student in San Diego reported a similar attack in a parking lot, where her attacker screamed out anti-Muslim slurs. In Pittsburgh, a passenger shot at a cab driver after the former discovered that the latter was Muslim, and in Anaheim, a bullet-riddled copy of the Quran was found outside an Islamic clothing store. The most recent incident recorded by the team involves a man pulling out a knife and threatening a Muslim woman at a carwash. While some of these perpetrators have been arrested, others continue to be investigated by local as well as federal authorities.
“We are always monitoring that kind of situation,” Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch told reporters last month. “We are always on the lookout for backlash against any individuals for any reason — real or perceived.”
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said that the increasing number of hate crimes identified by the research team at California State University corroborates anecdotal evidence collected by his own organization.
“We’re seeing so many of these things happening that it’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s off the chart, and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of it.”
Photo Credits: Reuters