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The entrance to a mosque in Palm Desert, California that was hit by an arsonist on Friday. (Photo: The Desert Sun)

The entrance to a mosque in Palm Desert, California that was hit by an arsonist on Friday. (Photo: The Desert Sun)

Flood of Anti-Muslim Violence Driving Record Year for Crimes of Hate

Increasing xenophobia, fueled by anti-Muslim rhetoric and exclusionary government policies in the wake of terror attacks, has propelled wave of hate crimes across the U.S.

Lauren McCauley

2015 is shaping up to be "one of the most intensely anti-Muslim periods in American history," according to reports, as increasing xenophobia and hateful rhetoric has propelled a record number of attacks on mosques and Islamic centers across the U.S.

In the past few days alone, a man was arrested for setting fire to a mosque in California's Coachella Valley and two additional mosques in nearby Hawthorne were targeted—one with graffiti and the other with the placement of a plastic grenade.

And in the North Texas town of Richardson, members of the so-called Bureau of American Islamic Relations carried guns alongside American flags as they protested outside a local mosque in the Dallas suburb.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)—which was the target of such an attack last week—has estimated that, as of December 8, mosques and Islamic centers in the U.S. "have been the victims of vandalism, harassment and anti-Muslim bigotry at least 63 times this year," CNN reported late last week. This marks a threefold increase over last year and the highest tally since the Muslim civil rights group began keeping track in 2009.

"This November alone saw 17 anti-Muslim incidents at mosques, with the vehemence rising after terrorists aligned with the Islamic State killed 130 people in Paris," CNN reported. "Death threats and vandalism spiked again after December 3, when a Muslim couple killed 14 people and injured 21 more in San Bernardino, California."

"There is, it turns out, a serious problem of domestic terrorism in the U.S., but it’s not the kind that typically receives attention or concern."
—Glenn Greenwald

Commenting on this trend, journalist Glenn Greenwald on Saturday cataloged a week's worth of such incidents. In addition to the aforementioned attacks and demonstrations, Greenwald cited: Attack on two hijab-wearing Muslim women in Tampa; the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama vows to "fight the spread of Islam" in the U.S.; "Muslim hijab-wearing middle school student asked by teacher if she has a bomb"; "Woman hurls slurs and hot coffee at Muslims praying in a California park"; vandalism at a Phoenix mosque; planned Quran burning outside the White House; Man in Manhattan restaurant throwing chairs and screaming slurs at Muslim workers: "Queens deli owner beaten by man screaming 'I kill Muslims'"; hateful letters sent to Jersey City mosque; "Pig’s head thrown at Philadelphia mosque"; and another case of arson, this time at a North Dakota Somali restaurant.

"There are numerous causes, most of them obvious," Greenwald writes, listing the forces driving this flood of anti-Muslim crime: "14 years of nonstop war waged by the U.S. and its allies in predominantly Western countries; the U.S. media’s mainstreaming of anti-Muslim polemicists; the bile unleashed and legitimized by the Trump campaign; the vile and deeply irresponsible rhetoric coming from U.S. politicians such as Democratic Rep. (and Senate candidate) Loretta Sanchez of California; the attempts to exploit attacks in Paris and San Bernardino for long-standing agendas designed to demonize Muslims and Islam."

"Just imagine what it’s like to be an American Muslim living under these threats and attacks," he urged, concluding, "There is, it turns out, a serious problem of domestic terrorism in the U.S., but it’s not the kind that typically receives attention or concern."

In fact, Reuters on Monday noted that growing fear within Muslim communities is driving some religious centers to beef up their security. Reportedly some have even contacted the Department of Homeland Security for help while others have hired armed guards, among other measures.

Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of national racial justice organization Advancement Project, issued a statement on Monday condemning this wave of hate crimes. "Attacks on our Muslim neighbors are attacks on all of us. We must decide if racist hate and fear mongering shall rule or if we will become the inclusive America we yearn to be," she said. 

Advancement Project co-director Penda Hair added, "As hard as those who seek to divide us might try, the days of using fear to breed hate, of vilifying and victimizing innocent people, cannot be sustained."

Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, noted last week that the threats and violence against Muslims "are also fueled by government policies that rest on the same underlying prejudice, namely that all Muslims are somehow suspect and that it is rational, indeed necessary, to treat them differently."

From police surveillance of Muslim communities in the wake of 9/11 to the House of Representative's landslide passage last week of new visa-waiver restrictions, with policies such as these, Warren asks, "Is it really any wonder that Muslim schoolgirls are harassed and called terrorists by their classmates" or " surprising that mosques get vandalized, or that a presidential candidate calls for closing them?"

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