2020 in Hate: The Global Network of Fascism

SAALT and our allies spent 2020 strategizing to combat rising fascism. From Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks and xenophobic refusal of human rights, to Narendra Modi’s employment of Islamophobic policies and his encouragement of Hindutva violence, right-wing extremism dominated 2020 — all with a global pandemic of unforeseen scale happening simultaneously.

When the attempted insurrection occurred on January 6 of this year, the world saw just how united supremacists of all tenets are, as Hindutva supremacists and Zionists joining hands with white supremacists to endanger democracy. Unfortunately, for many, it was no surprise; fascists are united in their hatred of equality.

To stand a chance against their growing forces, our communities must be united in the fight against all forms of fascism. Just as we stand against white supremacists, we must stand against Hindutva supremacists. And just as we fight them, we must also watch for and stamp out fascism globally — be it in Palestine, China, or Sri Lanka.

We must remember the histories of our collective fight and honor the world that we’re building towards. There cannot be supremacy in equity; there cannot be liberation without unity. In 2021, this is the challenge. We must fight hate and dismantle all systems, institutions, or relationships that uphold it — in the U.S., in South Asia, globally.

At the end of 2020, SAALT tracked a total of 28 incidents of hate violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab American communities, with 14 new incidents in November since our last report:

● On November 6, a Muslim family in Baltimore, MD was attacked by their neighbor. Reports indicate the neighbor had harassed this family since 2017, but this most recent event left a family member in need of medical treatment. “The adult male relative was leaving the home after dinner when a neighbor, who reportedly has surveillance cameras aimed at the family’s shared driveway, emerged from his home and approached him…He allegedly proceeded to verbally and physically assault the male relative, during which the victim’s hand was sliced with an object and he sustained injury to his knee.” Other attacks included verbal abuse, property damage, and threats of violence.

● On November 14, American Airlines staff forcibly removed Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, founder of Muslim Girl, from one of their flights since a white passenger felt “uncomfortable” sharing a plane with her.

● From mid-November onwards, Representative Abraham Aiyash (D-Detroit) was repeatedly harassed and eventually doxed, “Aiyash’s past employers, credit report and social security number made public in the online attack. Even the type of car he drives was shared in an attempt to threaten the newly elected state representative.” Aiyash also received multiple hateful messages filled with Islamophobic attacks, including one explicit threat on his and his family’s lives.

● On November 18, an unidentified man attacked Imam Khaled Hemaya while he was returning to his home in Los Angeles, CA. “As Hemaya entered the gate to join his wife at his apartment, the man reportedly blocked Hemaya’s vehicle and questioned whether he lived in the gated community.” After yelling at him and calling him names, “the man reportedly then began cursing at Hemaya, kicked the tires of his vehicle and finally, opened Hemaya’s door and punched him.

● On November 19, Neo-Nazi white supremacists posted hateful propaganda, which “included Nazi swastikas, attacks on the Black Lives Mater movement and references to ‘white pride’,” outside a Muslim family’s home in Washington, D.C.

● On November 24, a recruiter at Nityo Infotech sent out an email seeking applicants with the note, “Please do not submit Muslim candidates for below position.” This email was first claimed as a mistake, then claimed as the result of a server hacking; no apology has been issued.

● On November 26, Asad Malik, who owns a motel in Sterling Heights in Detroit, MI, received notice from the city of alleged fire code violations. However, Malik and his attorney, Shereef Akeel, believe the citations came for a different reason: Malik housed about 200 Syrian refugees starting in 2016. “The city started to slap him with citations for violations that other hotels with similar problems were not receiving.

● On December 8, Kendra Montemayor of Haltom, TX, attempted to pay a fine for a speeding citation at her local municipal court, but wasn’t “allowed inside because she was wearing a hijab.

● On December 11, Thuran Johnson threw bottles through the windows of Taste of India, a restaurant in Albuquerque, NM while diners ate. He told police that “the Taste of India restaurant stole the property from ‘Taste of Italy’,” but he was not arrested.

● On December 12, an unidentified white man attacked members of the youth group, Young Muslim Sisters, in Winter Park, FL. He shouted at member Asima Ali, “If you don’t like dogs, go back to your f***ing country!” and “I spent 25 years in the Gulf killing your people!” Ali documented the verbal assault and shared it via Facebook.

● On December 19, Susan Oyer, a teacher in Boca Raton, FL was accused of repeatedly making anti-immigrant comments to her students, including threats of “calling immigration” and physical abuse. She has been banned from teaching in the state until the summer of 2021.

● On December 22, Dima Ali and other Muslim and residents of color of Oak Park, IL were the targets of an Islamophobic attack from Matt Baron, who compared Ali’s statements against white supremacy to “someone leaving duffle bags in public places — a code for terrorism.

● On December 23, Thuran Johnson (who attacked Taste of India in Albuquerque, NM) attacked a South Asian healthcare worker at the University of New Mexico Hospital. He was not arrested.

● On December 25, Thuran Johnson attacked Albuquerque, NM restaurant Taste of India for a second time. He was arrested and prosecutors have “filed a motion to detain Johnson until trial, “citing his ‘irrational and dangerous behavior,’ along with his ‘determination to act violently’ toward people he believes are of Indian descent.

SAALT also recorded 8 new incidents of xenophobic and Islamophobic rhetoric made in November by public officials since our last report.

● On November 16, journalists at Vice revealed that the U.S. military had bought data from the people who manage the Muslim Pro app. “Many of the users of apps involved in the data supply chain are Muslim, which is notable considering that the United States has waged a decades-long war on predominantly Muslim terror groups in the Middle East, and hundreds of thousands of civilians have died during military intervention in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

● On November 19, Republican officials in Michigan’s Wayne County — “home to large Arab and Muslim communities in cities including Detroit, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Melvindale and Hamtramck” — refused to certify election results, “specifically objecting to results from Detroit, a city that is 80 percent African American.

● On November 24, Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton employed Laurie Cardoza-Moore at the Tennessee Textbook Commission, despite the fact that she “is the founder and president of the Franklin-based nonprofit Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN), which is committed to fighting anti-Semitism but has also been deemed a hate group by The Southern Poverty Law Center, and a former Williamson County School Board candidate…She garnered national attention when she led efforts to oppose the construction of a Murfreesboro mosque and was also heavily involved in efforts against an Advanced Placement human geography book perceived by some as anti-Semitic in 2013.

● On November 30, Piscataway Board of Education’s Vice President Nitang Patel and three other South Asians created and disseminated a flyer throughout New Jersey with an attack on local leader, Dr. Atif Nazir. “Dr. Nazir was the only person named in a 2019 flyer as the leader of a ‘radical group trying to take over the town government’…The flyer was paid for by the Election Fund of State Senator Bob Smith. It was translated into Gujarati and distributed to Hindu homes in Piscataway, NJ in Gujarati neighborhoods.

● On December 9, disciplinary counsel Jerry Morgan of the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility was found to have posted multiple Islamophobic tweets, including one that claimed he was a “proud anti-Muslim bigot.” Morgan has since resigned.

● On December 11, Robert R. Reilly took the reins of the media outlet Voice of America despite his vitriolic statements against Islam and homosexuality, among others. The former Acting CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Grant Turner, condemned the hiring of Reilly; the U.S. Agency for Global Media is a parent company of Voice of America.

● On December 12, Kelly Loeffler posed for a selfie with a known white supremacist. There has been wide public condemnation, but Loeffler has not responded.

● On December 21, John Catanzara, the President of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, made a social media post about Muslims in the area that read: “Savages they all deserve a bullet.” Despite condemnation, he remains in his position.

Since September 26, 2020, SAALT tracked 8 new publicly reported incidents of hate violence and rhetoric targeting Asian-American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander individuals and communities in November, since our last report. Our AAPI allies and SAALT continue to receive first-hand accounts of coronavirus-related hate violence, but these details will not be reported in SAALT’s Monthly Hate Reports.

● On November 17, Sacramento County Health Director Dr. Peter Beilenson referred to Asian Americans as “yellow folks” while presenting at a meeting discussing a resolution that declared racism a public health issue in Sacramento, CA.

● On December 2, Hima Kolnagireddy (who worked with Rudy Giuliani) made a statement to a committee in Michigan to mandate voting IDs, stating, “I think all Chinese look alike.” There has been wide condemnation, especially from the South Asian community, given Kolnagireddy’s own Indian heritage.

● On December 4, Reverend Larry Brito of the Saint Anne Parish in Santa Fe, NM referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus”. Though he initially said “he didn’t feel any remorse” for his usage of the racist term, he has since submitted a letter to the media outlet, the New Mexican, apologizing and acknowledging that the term “can be hurtful and even harmful.

● On December 17, Hillenbrand Farmhaus Brewery in New Castle, CA put out an offer titled the “Chinese Virus” special. Patric Hillenbrand, who runs the Brewery, has since deleted the business’s Facebook page and put out a formal apology for using the anti-Asian term.

● On December 17, Lahn Hansen spray-painted the Elk Grove, CA sushi restaurant, Umai Sushi Bar, with anti-Asian graffiti. He has since been arrested.

● On December 21, Raci Erdem put up a sign outside his Post Falls, ID restaurant, the Oval Office, reading “restaurants and bars don’t sell Kung Flu, only happiness.” After the Spokane and Idaho Chinese Associations condemned Erdem’s sign, he took it down; they all noted that they were “grateful to have connected and used the story as a teaching moment.

● On December 27, six unnamed people argued with a 32-year old Asian woman for not wearing a mask while riding the New York City subway; “the argument turned physical and the [six people] began punching the woman in the face.

● On December 30, an unidentified person verbally assaulted Hanna Li while parked in a lot in Tustin, CA. Members of the public “claimed to recognize the man in the video as an Irvine gym owner and trainer” but this has not yet been confirmed.

Inclusive of the incidents in this monthly summary, SAALT and our partners have tracked 351 incidents of xenophobic or Islamophobic rhetoric, and 747 incidents of hate violence targeting South Asians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Middle Eastern Americans, Arab Americans and those racialized as such since November 2015.

A national social justice org working on policy analysis/advocacy on issues affecting the South Asian community: immigration, post 9/11 backlash. www.saalt.org