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As the 20th anniversary of 9/11 passed Saturday, Muslim Americans braced for what community leaders said happens every year around this time: a wave of hate and overt Islamophobia.
Passersby outside the Islamic Center of Greater Austin in Texas discovered a bloodied mask of a pig’s head and a sign planted in the ground reading, “You are as unclean to God as a pig is to you.” The Austin Police Department’s hate crimes review committee is looking into the vandalism, but it needs more evidence for it to be considered a hate crime, according to local news station KVUE-ABC.
“These kind of crimes affect families, communities and our entire nation,” Zainab Chaudry, a director with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told NBC Asian America.
But they’re not new, she said, and the post-9/11 landscape for Muslims in the U.S. has been brutal. CAIR recently reported that a vast majority of Muslims have experienced discrimination since the 2001 attacks. Additionally, a 2020 survey showed a sharp decline in Muslim American satisfaction with the country after former President Donald Trump took office in 2017.
9/11 is always a particularly difficult day, Chaudry said.
“Some Muslims take off from work; others plan so they won’t have to leave home that day,” she said. “Parents have confided they keep their children home from school, while many mosques step up security measures.”
The vandalism of a mosque in Grand Blanc, Michigan, on Saturday led to calls from Muslim leaders for the incident to be investigated as a possible hate crime. Members of the Grand Blanc Islamic Center found its welcome sign defaced and lighting fixtures smashed outside the building.
Aicha Toure, a Black Muslim woman who wears a hijab, was allegedly assaulted and called a “Muslim terrorist” on a Spirit Airlines flight from Atlanta to Detroit by a white female passenger. After managing to record the woman, Toure reported the incident to CAIR. The white woman, who was arrested in Wayne County, reportedly harassed several people on the flight, including an older South Asian woman and members of the crew.
In Maryland, CAIR received reports of a woman who was harassed with racist comments by a white neighbor and a Muslim child bullied by a teacher and peers the Friday before 9/11. A statement from CAIR said the family of the young boy detailed an Islamophobic 9/11 lesson plan, during which the teacher asked their son to tell the class who was responsible for the attacks.
“This kind of scapegoating and harassment can have a lasting impact into adulthood,” Chaudry said in a statement posted online. “Every student is entitled to a safe learning environment.”
Underreporting is a huge problem in Muslim American circles, Chaudry said. She encouraged those who have experienced attacks to come forward to trusted leaders so the scope of Islamophobia in their communities can be better understood.
“A significant disparity exists between hate incidents that occur and those that are reported to law enforcement,” she said. “It’s important to report them not only so victims and survivors are able to receive adequate support through their ordeal, but also so they are prosecuted properly and justice is served.”
Police departments in Austin, Texas; Wayne County, Michigan; and Grand Blanc Township, Michigan, did not respond to requests for comment.