This Week In Hate: Mischaracterizing Hate Crimes
Since the 2016 presidential election on November 8, 2016, SAALT has documented a total of 459 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric targeting our communities (see Figure 1). This breaks down further to 322 incidents of hate violence and 137 incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric.
In the month of February, SAALT documented five incidents of hate violence and one incident of xenophobic political rhetoric targeting South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities. Of the five incidents of hate violence, two were verbal threats and three were physical assaults.
On February 4, 2019, a Los Angeles Uber driver, Bebe, was verbally abused by fellow passengers who used several racist and anti-Muslim slurs. The passengers allegedly called her names saying, “You stupid Muslim. You stupid Arabic.”
On February 13, 2019, John Crain assaulted a Sikh convenience store clerk in Marysville, California. Crain threw coffee at the clerk and punched him before fleeing the 7-Eleven.
On February 10, 2019, Khalid Beydoun, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas, was assaulted by a Delta Airlines pilot while flying to Arkansas. After asking why he was moved out of first class, Beydoun was attacked by the pilot who yelled and grabbed him.
On February 24, 2019, Mai Mohamed, a hijabi Egyptian teacher, was verbally assaulted by a woman outside a Houston Kroger. The woman approached Mohamed, and described her as “ugly.” She then flipped off Mohamed and told her to “get back to your f**king country, bi*ch*.”
When Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were murdered by their white supremacist neighbor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2015, the police labelled it as a “dispute over parking.” When Nabra Hassanen was brutally murdered in 2017 just outside her mosque in Sterling, Virginia, police labelled it as an incident of “road rage.” There is a dangerous trend of mischaracterizing hate crimes against Muslims.
On February 16, 2019 when Mustafa Ayoubi was shot and killed by Dustin Passarelli in Indianapolis, Indiana the police immediately labelled it an incident of road rage. Ayoubi’s friends witnessed Passarelli yelling “go back to your country.” Indiana police officers completely dismissed the Islamophobic slurs the perpetrator yelled before killing Ayoubi. Indiana is one of the five states that does not have a hate crime law. Each state must pass comprehensive hate crime laws, which extend protections against crimes targeting actual or perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, religion, gender, gender identify, or sexual orientation.
Since the November 2018 midterm elections, we have tracked four incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric targeting Muslim Congressional Representatives. While this number does not capture the shares, likes, and impact of these posts, white supremacist political figures continue to be emboldened to share Islamophobic sentiments on Facebook. In the latest case of Islamophobic rhetoric, Brian Wisniewski, school board member for the Plum Borough School District in Pennsylvania, posted a photo on Facebook showing a cowboy holding a gun with the American flag as a backdrop with the words, “Does it worry anybody that we have three devout Muslims in Congress who have unlimited access to our TOP SECRET GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS?”
As our communities gain representation in Congress we must ensure that hate violence and xenophobic remarks are not used as tools for fear and division. Hate crimes legislation must be passed at the state and national levels so that our communities receive the justice they deserve. #TakeOnHate.