2016, the worst year for American Muslims since 2001

Three mosques in California were sent anonymous hate-mail in November warning them that Donald Trump would 'cleanse' Muslims from the US the same way 'Hitler did to the Jews.'

This story best reflects the dilemma of the seven-million-strong Muslim American Community during the presidential election year. The year 2016 was perhaps the worst year for American Muslims since 2001 .

The New York Times pointed out: Hate crimes against American Muslims have soared to their highest levels since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, according to data compiled by researchers, an increase apparently fueled by terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad and by divisive language on the campaign trail. The trend has alarmed hate crime scholars and law-enforcement officials, who have documented hundreds of attacks — including arsons at mosques, assaults, shootings and threats of violence — since the beginning of 2015.

Political rhetoric plays an important role in mitigating or fueling hate crimes. USA Today said Trump's inflammatory rhetoric and policy positions have made many groups feel unsafe on Twitter. Trump has suggested banning Muslims from entering the U.S., has said "Islam hates us," suggested the surveillance of mosques, and has talked about "profiling" of Muslims as a response to terrorism.  According to AOL Global, 15 years after the 2001 terrorist attack, Muslim Americans still face discrimination in their everyday lives.

A study reported by Huffington Post indicated hate crime in U.S. survey was up 6 percent but Anti-Muslim rose to 89 percent. A new report from California State University-San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism suggests that anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. rose sharply to the highest levels since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. “We’re seeing these stereotypes and derogative statements become part of the political discourse,” said Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the San Bernardino campus. “The bottom line is we’re talking about a significant increase in these types of hate crimes.”

Police and news media reports in recent months have indicated a continued flow of attacks, often against victims wearing traditional Muslim garb or seen as Middle Eastern, the New York Times said adding: “Some scholars believe that the violent backlash against American Muslims is driven not only by the string of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States that began early last year, but also by the political vitriol from candidates like Donald J. Trump, who has called for a ban on immigration by Muslims and a national registry of Muslims in the United States.”

A Georgetown University report released in May 2016 similarly found that threats, intimidation and violence against Muslim Americans have surged over the course of the presidential election.

According to the report, in the period between March 2015 and March 2016, there have been 180 reported incidents of anti-Muslim violence. These include 12 murders, 34 physical assaults, 56 acts of vandalisms, nine arsons, and eight shootings and bombings.

Last September, a leading Muslim civil advocacy group reported that 2016 is on track to be one of the worst years ever for anti-mosque incidents, with a total of 55 cases recorded as of mid-September. The majority of the 2016 incidents have been violent in tone, characterized by intimidation, physical assault and property damage, destruction or vandalism. In the first two weeks of September, three incidents targeting mosques have occurred. The most destructive of these has been in Florida, where a mosque was intentionally set ablaze and a suspect arrested.

Here are few examples of hate crimes:

On Oct 25, an Agoura Hills Man was arrested and accused of making criminal threats against the Islamic Center of Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Mark Feigin, 40, was accused of making two calls to the Islamic Center in September, threatening to kill local Muslims and violence against the ICSC. Police found a stash of weapons, including riffles, modified ammunition magazines and ammunition inside Feigin's home.

In October,  Abdul Usmani’s father, Dr. Zeeshan-ul-hassan Usmani, told BuzzFeed News that his wife and three sons have left the US for Pakistan after his7-year-old boy was beaten by five students on a school bus. This was the latest incident in a long history of discrimination towards his children and family.

More alarmingly, Muslim-Americans are receiving anonymous robocalls asking for religious affiliation. The New York Daily News reported on November 22 that several Muslim-Americans received mysterious robocalls asking them whether they identify as a follower of Islam.

In the meantime, a number of libraries across the U.S. reported that they have seen an increased number of anti-Muslim acts of vandalism and hate speech in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. The Guardian reported on December 12 a survey by the American Libraries Association (ALA), which found that copies of the Koran and books about Islam have been defaced with swastikas and other hate speech at a number of libraries.

The Trump rhetoric is not only fomenting hate crimes against the Muslims but also other minorities. On November 1, a historic African-American church in Greenville, Mississippi, was burned down and vandalized with “Vote Trump” graffiti. Local and federal officials were investigating the fire at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church as a hate crime. The words “Vote Trump” were spray-painted on the side of the burned-out church, which was home to a congregation of 200 members. Greenville is a city of around 35,000 inhabitants in northwestern Mississippi, on the border with Arkansas. The vast majority of its residents are African-American.

Ironically, Salon reported in October that Kansas “militia members” aren’t considered “terrorists” because they’re not Muslim. On October 14, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it had arrested three white men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, who as part of a militia group called the Crusaders planned to bomb a housing complex and mosque in Garden City, Kansas. Allen, Wright and Stein. They had stockpiled 2,000 pounds of ammunition and numerous homemade bombs to conduct the attack. Chauncey DeVega, a politics staff writer for Salon, wrote: “The murderous actions planned by Allen, Wright, and Stein are the very definition of terrorism: politically motivated violence against a vulnerable civilian population. The headlines from major American news outlets, however, described Allen, Wright and Stein as “militia members” instead of “terrorists.” White privilege takes many forms in America. Terrorists are nebulous brown “Arabs” and “Muslims.”

On the positive note:

There were few decisions and measures that assured the American Muslim community that everything is not negative for them. This gives the community hope and optimism that the principles of freedom, liberty and equality on which this great nation was founded will prevail.

On December 22, President Barrack Obama permanently dismantled the regulatory framework behind the National Security Exit-Entry Registration System (NSEERS) also called "Special Registration," introduced in 2001. This program was once used to track Muslims.President-elect Donald Trump and advisors close to him have publicly said that the Trump administration would revive and expand the federal registry that once targeted visitors mostly from Muslim-majority countries.

Tellingly, in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s threats to create a national registry of Muslims Facebook, Google, Apple, Uber, and IBM have joined Twitter and publicly declared that they will not participate in such a registry. The ABC7 reported on December 13 that Silicon Valley engineers, designers and business executives are vowing not to build a  database that would track Muslim Americans or anyone else based on their religion.

In October, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill designed to address potential bullying, harassment, and intimidation of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian students. In October  also, the Miami commission passed a resolution condemning hate speech and violence directed at Muslims. The resolution was intended to show "solidarity with Muslims and those targeted for their ethnicity, race, or religion."

On December 14, a man prosecutors say repeatedly stabbed a Muslim worshiper at a Queens mosque in 2012 received a 20 year prison sentence. The man, 59-year-old Bernard Laufer, was convicted of first-degree attempted assault, second-degree assault, criminal possession of a weapon, and criminal mischief. In November, Laufer wrote on his Facebook page that “the Nazis of today that kill in the name of the devilish religion called Islam. They will be destroyed like Hitler’s Nazis were!”

Similarly,on December 19,  a self-proclaimed white supremacist, convicted on charges he planned to use a “death ray” to kill Muslims and  Barack Obama, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. According to  federal prosecutors in New York, Glendon Scott Crawford, 52, a Navy veteran and a member of the Ku Klux Klan, was found guilty in August 2015 of conspiring with another man to build a radiation dispersal device. Authorities said Crawford, who worked at General Electric Co, carried out extensive research on radiation dispersal devices, learning what level of emission was required to kill humans and conducting reconnaissance on potential targets, including a local mosque. In conversations recorded without his knowledge by a confidential law enforcement source, Crawford spoke often of his hatred of Muslims and said he would go after Obama in the White House with the device.

A day after Trump’s win, Aura Bogado of the Nation has a very harsh comment: “For immigrants, for Muslims, and for people of color in general, the results of this election feel like imminent death. Trump’s victory indicates that naked bigotry levied against us is capable of winning the toughest of elections…… The stakes are especially different for undocumented immigrants—the people whom Trump turned into ridiculed objects of hate, and won an election by doing so. The least white folks who care about social justice can do right now is check in with immigrants they personally know to make sure we’re surviving. And to confirm we’re still alive.

However, the economy was perhaps by far the most important issue leading to Trump’s victory.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America ( email: asghazali2011 (@)

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