WASHINGTON – An American Muslim group has blamed a spike in anti-Muslim incidents in 2016, with mosques becoming a prime target of hate, on the “Islamophobic rhetoric” of Republican nominee Donald Trump.
“American Muslims in the US are very worried about their safety, the safety of their families, the safety of their institutions, and they don’t feel that they’re safe to go out,” said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relation (CAIR), ABC News reported on Thursday, September 15.
CAIR released a preliminary report Thursday that warns this year is on track to become one of the worst ever for anti-mosque incidents that “have been violent in tone, characterized by intimidation, physical assault and property damage, destruction or vandalism.”
The report said that 55 mosques in the US have been targeted so far this year, making 2016 one of the worst years on record for anti-mosque incidents.
In 2015, there were 79 recorded incidents, the highest number reported in a single year since experts began tracking the data in 2009, according to CAIR. In 2009, 13 mosques reported incidents.
Three mosques were targeted this month, all of them occurring on or around the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The majority of the incidents in 2016 have been violent in tone, characterized by intimidation, physical assault, and vandalism, according to CAIR.
“No one feels that they’re safe regardless of where they live, whether it’s New York or Minnesota or in Washington, D.C., in suburbs or in isolated towns,” Awad said.
Awad added it’s “all of the above” including “Donald Trump and his surrogates who have been taking cheap shots at the Muslim community.”
“We’re trying to understand why Trump is targeting the Muslim community,” he said. “One simple conclusion is he’s appealing to people who are anxious, people who are angry, and uncertain about their future.”
“Donald Trump is using fear, is exploiting fear, is promoting and selling fear. And fear sells, unfortunately, in times of tension,” he added, pointing to Trump’s immigration, terrorism and national security policies of “dividing America.”
The FBI backs CAIR’s data. In a 2015 hate crime statistics report, 16.1 percent of 1,140 religious hate crime victims were Muslim, up from previous years, despite the fact that overall hate crime numbers among other religious groups were declining, the FBI said.
Awad argues that these incidents show that “the constitution is being threatened.”
“Not many people see it that way but minorities, including American Muslims, see it very clearly,” he said.
Attacks have been taking violent nature recently.
Recent reports said that a Muslim marine was called a “terrorist” and thrown in an industrial dryer at a South Carolina boot camp.
The incident, which occurred in 2015, happened just months before the suicide of another Muslim marine who was reportedly hazed and physically abused at the same boot camp.
Earlier this week, a Muslim Stanford student was attacked on social media for wearing a headscarf, or hijab.
Despite this perceived intensity of recent attacks, Muslims are a vital part of the American community, Awad said.
“I think people are becoming acquainted with the American Muslim community and they have seen how courageous American Muslims have been in fighting extremism,” Awad said.
“American Muslims were also among the victims of 9/11, and American Muslims were among the first responders. American Muslims serve in the U.S. Army. American Muslims have fallen for this country. The human face is becoming known to more Americans,” he said.
Of the 2,996 Americans who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, 60 were Muslim American.
“We need to see more political leaders standing for what’s right, and show the courage and the decency to push back against the hate speech and hate acts regardless of the identity of the community because we’re all Americans and we all deserve equal protections and equal respect,” Awad said.