This Week in Hate: Physical assaults targeting Muslim women and elderly Sikh men continue

In August, we continued to see Islamophobic attacks targeting Muslims and Muslim owned properties. And just as we saw in July, attacks against elderly South Asian men continued in August. On August 25th, 64-year-old Parmjit Singh was fatally stabbed by a white man while he was walking in his neighborhood near Gretchen Talley Park in Tracy, California. The attack is currently under investigation. Two weeks earlier, an elderly Sikh man was attacked in his home in Washington D.C. The man suffered a fracture to his cheek as well as other bodily injuries requiring emergency surgery.

These are not not isolated incidents. In fact, for the month of August, SAALT recorded 10 incidents of hate violence and 10 instances of xenophobic and/or Islamophobic political rhetoric targeting Muslims and those racialized as Muslim. Of the 11 incidents of violence , 3 involved physical assaults, including death, 6 entailed written/verbal remarks or threats, and 2 included property damage.

  • On August 6, 2019, a woman spray-painted anti-Muslim graffiti in front of several small businesses, including a Muslim-owned mini market, in Concord, California.
  • On August 7, 2019, the words “Cease With The Needless Slaughter” and “Muslims Go Home” were painted on Saba Live Poultry in Bloomfield, Connecticut.
  • On August 8, 2019, a man stabbed two women, killing one, at a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, bus stop. The other woman, currently in critical condition, may have been wearing a hijab and was described as Muslim by an eyewitness.
  • On August 19, 2019, a white, high-ranking U.S. Army military official threatened to kill Rashad Mohamed Benantar, a Muslim man, at the Crossings of Colonie playground in Brooklyn, New York. The official also yelled, “Your prophet is a dog,” and “this is a Christian country” at Muslim children in the playground.
  • On August 23, 2019, while on a bus in Bensonhurst, New York, a white woman accosted an 18-year-old girl wearing a hijab. After uttering the comments, “Go back to your country” and “What is that rag on your head?” the lady spat on the girl and threw a cup of soda at her before exiting the bus.
  • Also on August 23, 2019, officials at Boston Logan Airport interrogated Ismail B. Ajjawi, an incoming freshman at Harvard University, for hours — about comments others had made on his non-political social media posts, which he had neither endorsed nor commented on. They subsequently denied him entry into the United States.
  • On August 28, 2019, via the form of a written message, an anonymous assassin threatened to stage a mass shooting at the Minnesota State Fair and kill Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
  • On August 29, 2019, a Starbucks employee at a branch in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, wrote a Muslim man’s name as “ISIS” on the order slip. The man, identified as Abdul Aziz Johnson, was wearing traditional Islamic attire when he placed his order.

This month we continued to see the reinforcment of Islamophobic and xenophobic rhetoric coming out of the highest elected offices. On August 3, 2019, President Trump retweeted British commentator and known Islamophobe Katie Hopkins’ post in which she called for London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is Muslim, to be removed from his position over the city’s knife-crime crisis.

President Trump’s vitrolic comments about “The Squad” last month set a dangerous precedent for August, with much of the month’s documented xenophobic political rhetoric directly targeting Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Talib (D-MI):

  • On August 5, 2019, CNN’s Jake Tapper, while discussing the El Paso, Texas, mass shooting, remarked: “You hear Republicans talk all the time, rightly, in my view, about the tone set by, well, the Arab world … The Palestinians and the way they talk about Israelis, justifying, in the same way you’re doing, no direct link between what the leader says and the violence to some poor Israeli girl in a pizzeria, but the idea you’re validating this hatred. … You can’t compare the ideology of Hamas with anything else, but at the same time, either tone matters or it doesn’t.” Representative Rashida Talib, who identifies as Muslim, publicly criticized Tapper for his remarks.
  • On August 8, 2019, Perry Atkinson, a conservative TV and radio host, engaged in an Islamophobic conversation with anti-Muslim activist John Guandolo centered around Representative Ilhan Omar. He said, “Can Representative Omar, being a Muslim in favor of Sharia law, ever really be an American?”
  • On August 15, 2019, the New York Republican Party invited Pamela Geller, a notorious Islamophobe, as an event speaker, even though she has been involved in far-right movements since the 9/11 attacks, claimed in a 2010 interview that “Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by lslam,” and lauded a group of U.S. Marines who had urinated on corpses in Afghanistan.
  • Also, on August 15, 2019, E. Miles Prentice, owner of the Single-A Connecticut Tigers and co-owner of the Double-A Midland (Texas) RockHounds, refused to meet with the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR sought to discuss with Prentice his role as Chairman of the Center for Security Policy, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) identifies as an anti-Muslim hate group. Prentice instead responded by denouncing the SPLC as a group of “radical leftists.”
  • On August 16, 2019, President Trump nominated Steven Menashi to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit despite (1) his argument endorsing ethnonationalism in a law-review article and (2) his spreading of an Islamophobic myth, about U.S. Gen. John Pershing executing Muslim prisoners in the Philippines with bullets dipped in ‘pigs’ blood.”
  • On August, 24, 2019, Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) said on CNN, “Muslims more so than most people have great animosity toward Israel and the Jewish faith. As you have more and more Muslims in the US, as they gain greater and greater influence in elections … you’re going to see more people like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib.”
  • On August 24, 2019, the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee adopted a resolution seeking to expel Representative Ilhan Omar from Congress.
  • On August 27, 2019, Representative Steve King (R-IA) joked about reports stating that Uyghur Muslims in Chinese concentration camps are being sterilized and force-fed pork in violation of their religious beliefs. He specifically said in response to the comments, “That’s the only part of that I agree with. … Everyone should eat pork.”
  • On August 28, 2019, incumbent State Sen. Richard Stuart (R-VA) attacked his Muslim opponent, Qasim Rashid, in an ad. He said, “Rashid doesn’t believe Islamic terrorism exists.” All three of the ads from Stuart’s campaign against Rashid in August mention the word “radical,” either about terrorism or his “socialist” policies.

SAALT has logged 520 reported incidents of hate and 274 instances of xenophobic political rhetoric since November 2016. Toxic xenophobic, anti-black, and Islamophobic political rhetoric and violence against our community members continue to mutually reinforce one another.

Just yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee held a Congressional Hearing titled “Oversight of the Trump Administration’s Muslim Ban.” In our 2018 report “Communities on Fire,” one in five perpetrators of hate violence against our communities actually referenced President Trump, one of his campaign slogans, or one of his administration’s policies while committing the act, and the most frequent reference was the Muslim Ban.

We urge lawmakers to make the connection between such discriminatory policies and the parallel violence aimed at our communities, and that policy solutions to address hate crimes actually address such root causes by acknowledging that state violence is hate violence.

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