Muslims in America are experiencing an unprecedented level of discrimination, threats, and violence following the Paris attacks, according to a new report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that advocates for Muslim civil liberties.
CAIR says it has received more reports on acts of discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims and Islamic institutions in the past week and a half than during any other period since the September 11 attacks.
"We have not received this many complaints about hate crimes and acts of discrimination against the Muslim community before," Robert McCaw, government affairs manager at CAIR, told VICE News.
The report listed 26 incidents between November 13, when coordinated attacks in Paris claimed by the Islamic State left 130 people dead, and November 24. The majority of the incidents were against places of worship, where mosques were vandalized or threatened through phone calls or letters. The events ranged from someone spray painting an image of the Eiffel Tower on a mosque in Omaha, Nebraska, to armed protesters staging a demonstration outside an Islamic center in Irving, Texas.
Individuals and groups have also been targeted and sometimes physically assaulted, according to the report. In one incident, a couple in Orlando, Florida returned home to find that somebody fired shots at their home, leaving bullets lodged in the walls of their garage.
In another case, a US postal worker in Brooklyn, New York allegedly harassed and threatened two Muslim women wearing hijabs, including one who was pushing her infant child in a stroller. The man allegedly shoved and spat on the woman pushing the stroller, then chased the women into a nearby deli, where he reportedly shouted obscenities and threatened to "burn your Muslim temple down." The man has since been charged with a hate crime.
CAIR attributes the spike in incidents to the Paris attacks and what it called the "mainstreaming of Islamophobia" by politicians. Recent remarks by governors who want to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states have also played in role, the organization said.
'Our lawmakers are playing on public fears about Muslims and Muslim refugees and legitimizing hate.'
"Our lawmakers are playing on public fears about Muslims and Muslim refugees and legitimizing hate," said McCaw. "We find this atmosphere of toxic political rhetoric to definitely be contributing to this spike."
All of Paris attackers identified thus far have been French or Belgian nationals. A Syrian passport was found near one of the suicide bombers, but authorities now believe the document was forged. Nevertheless, governors in 27 states have called for a ban on Syrian refugees resettling in their cities. A bill to suspend Syrian and Iraqi refugees from entering into the US without additional security checks recently passed the House and is awaiting a vote in the Senate.
Around 2,000 Syrian refugees have resettled in the US since 2012, and 10,000 Syrians in total are expected to resettle in the US this fiscal year. According to the Migration Policy Institute, of the 784,000 refugees that have resettled in the US since 9/11 only three have been arrested for planning terrorist activities. Two of the cases involved attacks outside the US, and the third was deemed "barely credible."
"It's scary to think that there are more incidents than after September 11 events," said Mohamed Khairullah, a Syrian-American mayor in Prospect Park, New Jersey whose own family fled Syria in the 90s. "The numbers speak for themselves — people's pride and hate have been emboldened, and now people have to be alert."
Khairullah said he recently spoke to a woman in his community who was considering taking off her hijab in order to avoid negative attention. He stressed the need for politicians to tone down their message.
"We're all concerned about the safety of the United States, but the rhetoric is not serving anything but dividing the nation," Khairullah said.
Follow Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn on Twitter: @yukvon
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