This Week in Hate: Hate Violence 17 Years After 9/11

On the 17th anniversary of 9/11 we reflect on the impact of anti-immigrant animus and institutionalized policies of racial profiling aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities.

Seventeen years after 9/11 the hate violence targeting the South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities has surpassed levels seen only immediately after September 11, 2001. Since the presidential election, SAALT has documented over 400 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric.

Since November 2016, SAALT has documented 289 incidents of hate violence and 122 incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric. (See Figure 1)

Between August 14 and September 28, 2018 alone, SAALT documented six incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric and six incidents of hate violence.

Five out of the six incidents of hate violence in this month have been tagged as property damage to private property, businesses, or mosques. Within three weeks, three incidents of property damage occurred in Austin, Texas.

Within ten days, the North Austin Muslim Community Center was vandalized twice. On September 2, 2018, security camera footage shows a white male entering the mosque property, breaking the glass door, and puncturing a vehicle’s tire. On September 13, the North Austin mosque was vandalized for a second time with fence and vehicle damage. The third incident of property damage in Austin occurred on September 20 when the perpetrator smashed eight glass windows of the New Madina Market before running off.

It is no surprise that as we enter the November 2018 midterm elections, we have seen a rise in incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric, which is defined as biased language by those in position of power or influence intended to target and scapegoat communities for political gain. Among those incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric seen between August 14, 2018 and September 28, 2018 are the following:

  • On September 11, 2018, Captain Jim Green, an aviation adjunct instructor at Utah Valley University, posted anti-muslim remarks in a Canvas discussion to students, writing that 9/11 is the reason he is “‘very’”opposed to allowing Muslims to immigrate to the USA!” and that “they hate us and always will.”
  • On September 1, 2018, leaked audio revealed members of anti-Muslim militia, Texas Patriot Network and Soldiers of Odin, threatening to attack people outside of the 55th annual Islamic Society of North America convention in Houston, Texas.
  • On August 22, 2018, Sara Legvold, shared a post on Protect Texas, an “anti-amnesty” Facebook page that she manages about a Tarrant County Republican representative: “Dr. Shafi is a practicing, Mosque-attending muslim who claims not to follow sharia law or know what it is,” Legvold said in the post. “As a practicing muslim that is an overt falsehood. Sharia law is anathema to our Constitution because Islam recognizes no other law but shariah.”
  • On August 18, 2018, Joel Greenberg, a Seminole County Tax Collector posted on his Facebook, “Very simple question…Name just ONE society in the developed world that has benefited in ANY WAY from the introduction of more Muslims. Just one. Asking for a friend.” Greenberg also included in the comments a link to an article about a case of female genital mutilation from Jihad Watch, a site that critics have called anti-Muslim propaganda.
  • On August 14, 2018, Joey Hester, a candidate for Shreveport City Council and a Blanchard County Police Officer shared a post on social media that suggested Muslims should not be elected to political offices in the United States.
  • On August 14, 2018, Ireneusz Ekiert, Priest at Mary help of Christians Catholic Church in Parkland, Florida shared several anti-Muslim posts on his Facebook: “If these members of the ‘religion of peace’ had been NRA members, CNN would still be giving it 24 hr coverage!” Another image read: “This is the reaction by the Muslim Extremist after being granted BAIL by a Liberal Democrat Judge after killing a kid and training kids to kill Americans in New Mexico. ARE YOU PISSED YET AMERICA!?!?!?!!!!!”

Our latest report Communities on Fire illustrates a direct connection between destructive and divisive rhetoric and policies and the rising tide of hate violence. We found that one in five perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump policy, or a Trump campaign slogan, underlining a strong link between President Trump’s anti-Muslim agenda and hate violence post-election.

It is imperative that public figures, especially those hoping to represent our communities, reflect on and unlearn their xenophobic rhetoric and biases. Our communities are facing a cycle of violence where hateful rhetoric heeds equally hateful policies which in turn promote even more hateful rhetoric.

Our social and political institutions are built on white supremacist, anti-indigenous, and anti-black policies and it will take a process of unlearning and redefining to make them more equitable and just. To begin the process of redefining justice, we must learn from survivors of white supremacist hate violence.

Arjun Sethi’s new book American Hate: Survivors Speak Out does just that. In the book, “survivors tell their stories in their own words and describe how the bigoted rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration have intensified bullying, discrimination, and even violence toward them and their communities.” The book also provides ideas and practices for resistance that all of us can take to combat hate both now and in the future.

As we reflect on the 17th anniversary of 9/11, we must continue to resist and challenge white supremacist narratives of hate and exclusion we must remain steadfast in our ideas of justice. We must hold our elected officials accountable and reject racist policies and the xenophobic rhetoric that follow.

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