Earlier this month the FBI released its annual hate crimes statistics report for 2017. The data, while a vast underestimate of the violence our communities face, continues to show an increase in hate crimes for the third year in a row, consistently surpassing the spike immediately after September 11, 2001. Here are a few key findings from the report:

  • The number of hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2017 increased to 7,175 from 6,121 in 2016
  • Anti-Sikh and anti-Arab hate crimes rose by 243% and 100% respectively since 2016
  • Overall number of hate crimes targeting Muslim Americans decreased by 11%, but the 2017 total of 273 anti-Muslim hate crimes continues to be a historically high number
  • In the over 6,000 hate crimes where the race of the offender was reported, over 50% of the perpetrators were identified as white

Since November 2016, SAALT has tracked 433 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, South Asian, Arab, and Middle Eastern American communities. Overall, there have been 90 physical assaults, 120 verbal/written assaults, and 91 incidents of property damage against our communities (See Figure 1).

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In the month of November, SAALT logged a total of four incidents of hate violence and two incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric. There are two significant trends in this month of hate: 1) continued rise in xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at Muslim elected officials and 2) Muslim youth are among the most vulnerable targets of hate violence.

This month, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar made history for being the first Muslim women elected to serve in Congress. Unfortunately, these wins were accompanied by Islamophobic political rhetoric perpetrated by white supremacists and public figures.

  • On November 14, 2018, Laura Loomer, an alt-right figure tweeted, “Isn’t it ironic how the twitter moment used to celebrate ‘women, LGBTQ, and minorities’ is a picture of Ilhan Omar? Ilhan is pro Sharia Ilhan is pro-FGM Under Sharia, homosexuals are oppressed & killed. Women are abused & forced to wear the hijab. Ilhan is anti Jewish.” Loomer was permanently banned from Twitter for hate speech.
  • On November 20, 2018, Former Morris County Sheriff Ed Rochford posted an anti-Muslim meme on Facebook. The post read “We now have 2 Muslims voted into congress. They can’t put their hand on our Bible & swear to uphold our constitution due to their faith. We are being destroyed within our own country. The Trojan horse has made it into our government.”

While we were informed of only two incidents of xenophobic political rhetoric against Tlaib and Omar this is by no means the extent of violence against MASA elected officials. As seen in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, incidents like this will only continue to increase.

Of the four incidents of hate violence we tracked this month, two incidents targeted Muslim youth and two incidents targeted places of worship.

  • On November 9, 2018, Muslim 5th grader at Hemenway Elementary found two notes in her classroom cubby. One of the notes called her a “terrorist.” On Tuesday morning, there was a second note, reading “I will kill you.”
  • On November 19, 2018, a white man made anti-black racist remarks and waved a handgun at Somali Muslim teenagers at a McDonalds in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
  • On November 3, 2018, a caller claimed to have a bomb and threatened to “kill everyone inside” the Dar El-Eman Islamic Center in Arlington, Texas. Patrol officers and fire investigators who deal with suspicious devices responded to the mosque, where dozens of congregants were gathered for a family-night event with Arlington police.
  • On November 18, 2018, the Mustafa Center in Annandale, Virginia was vandalized with a broken rear door and wine bottle shattered onto a door.

While the FBI’s 2017 hate crimes statistics report claims that the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes has “decreased” we know that our communities continue to be victims of hate violence across the country.

Underreporting continues to be an issue as communities remain cautious of reporting to law enforcement officials and rightly so because some of the most high profile hate crimes of 2017 were omitted from the FBI report. Research conducted by the Arab American Institute notes that the city of Olathe, Kansas, reported no hate crimes, and statewide, zero hate crime murders were reported in 2017. One such case is of Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s 2017 murder at the hands of a white supremacist in Olathe, Kansas. His killer, Adam Purinton, was convicted on a federal hate crimes charge earlier this year.

White supremacist violence, fanned by the flames of racist rhetoric and policies at the federal level, has devastated marginalized communities. Until this administration confronts this crisis, we will continue to face a surge in hate crimes aimed at our communities.

Written by

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

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