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Hate Attacks on Muslims in U.S. Spike After Recent Acts of Terrorism

This photo provided by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community muslimsforpeace.org shows crosses in spray paint vandalizing windows at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Baitus-Salaam Mosque in Hawthorne, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015. AP

Muslims in America appear to have a bull's-eye on their backs.

Hate crimes targeting Muslims, their mosques and businesses, have tripled this year and the bulk of the attacks have occurred in recent weeks, according to a tally by California State University San Bernardino college professor Brian Levin.

There have been 38 anti-Muslim attacks in the U.S. since the deadly Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, Levin found.

And 18 of those happened in the wake of the Dec. 2 slaughter in San Bernardino, according to Levin, whose office is just nine miles from the government building where a radicalized Muslim couple murdered 14 people and wounded 22 more before they were killed by law enforcement.

All that is good for ISIS, Levin told NBC News.

"Among ISIS' most prominent goals is painting the west as being incompatible with the Muslim faith and hostile toward Muslims who live there and reject the caliphate," said Levin, who was a New York City police officer before he became an academic.

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In an address at the White House Thursday, Vanita Gupta, who heads the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, also noted the reported rise in anti-Muslim incidents.

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"Similar to what we saw after 9/11, in recent weeks following the terrible and tragic attacks in San Bernardino and Paris — and amidst a ratcheting up of divisive rhetoric around religious intolerance —community members and advocates have reported an uptick in hate-related incidents targeting Muslim Americans, as well as those perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being Muslim," he said.

There have been reports of anti-Islamic attacks across the country wherever Muslims live. Girls wearing hijabs have been harassed. Mosques have been defaced and targeted by arsonists. One Muslim woman was menaced by a man with a knife. A Queens shopkeeper was beaten-up by a customer shouting anti-Muslim slurs.

Sarker Haque
Store owner Sarker Haque speaks about being attacked during a news conference in New York on Dec. 10. Haque, who is a Muslim, was attacked in his store in Queens and the police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. Seth Wenig / AP

On Tuesday, the Iraq-born owner of Middle Eastern Pastries in South Salt Lake, Utah found a swastika spray-painted on the window and door of his business and — for reasons even less clear — the number 3. Local cops have launched a hate-crime investigation.

"I have no idea why people would do this to us and I don't want to guess nothing or think about this," a spokesman for the owner told NBC News.

"No names, no names," the frightened spokesman said when asked for his. "We are afraid. We don't want no hate. We want this to go away."

Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the atmosphere right now reminds him of the fraught days after the 9/11 attacks when hundreds of Muslims were attacked under the guise of payback for the Al Qaeda assaults. And Hooper points the finger at Donald Trump and other Muslim-bashers.

"Somebody on our Facebook site likened what's happening to lava building in a volcano and finally erupting," he told NBC News. "This toxic atmosphere has been building for years. The Paris attacks, the San Bernardino attacks and Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric has caused it to erupt."

There were 481 anti-Islam hate crimes reported in 2001, most of them after the Sept. 11 attacks, for an average monthly rate of 40.1, according to FBI statistics crunched by Levin.

Over the last five years, Levin found that there were 150.8 anti-Islamic hate crimes per year for a monthly average of 12.6.

Currently, the 38 suspected hate crime cases are 2.94 times the average monthly rate seen from 2010-2014.

The FBI said it was still in the process of compiling the latest hate crime statistics for 2015.

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"We continuously work with our state and local partners to secure communities and to investigate and bring to justice those who would commit violent acts or make violent threats against others based on the victim's Constitutionally-protected characteristics or beliefs, real or perceived," an agency spokesman said in a response to a question from NBC News.

The Obama Administration was so concerned about a backlash against American Muslims that President Obama's top advisers held a series of meetings Monday with Islamic leaders to discuss the fallout their communities are facing.

They also included leaders from the Sikh community, which, while not Muslim, has also been the target of bias attacks because men of the faith wear distinctive turbans often wrongly associated with Islam.

Image:
Graffiti in the shape of the Eiffel Tower inside a circle is painted on the side of the Islamic Center in Omaha, Neb., on Nov. 17, 2015. A Muslim civil rights group wants the FBI and local police to investigate the vandalism as possible hate crime, that may be related to the Paris terror attacks. Nati Harnik / AP