Anti-Muslim attacks are on the rise since last week’s massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., and recent comments by presidential candidate Donald Trump could make the situation worse, Muslim and Arab-American leaders said Tuesday.
The attacks range from a pig's head thrown at a mosque to a shop owner who was beaten for being Muslim.
Recent vandalism and threats at mosques represent a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has asked American Muslims to report incidents of bias.
“We don’t literally have time to issue a statement on every incident because they’re coming in so fast and furious,” Hooper said. “When the leading Republican presidential candidate can say ‘bar all Muslims coming to America’ and know he can get more support for it — it is truly frightening.”
The Anti-Defamation League has reports of about two dozen anti-Muslim attacks since the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris, ranging from a cabdriver shot in Pittsburgh to vandalism against mosques and other buildings, plus verbal or written threats.
“We’re definitely seeing anti-Muslim bigotry escalating around the country,” said Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
Trump on Monday called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." On Tuesday, the candidate said his plan has “tremendous support” by his followers, despite condemnation from Republicans, Democrats and world leaders.
Trump’s words came as Philadelphia police and the FBI are investigating who left a severed pig’s head at the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society mosque. Surveillance camera video shows the object was tossed from a passenger window of a pickup early Sunday, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In Austin, two young Arab-American women reported they were verbally assaulted at a restaurant Sunday morning by another patron.
Leilah Abdennabi, a Palestinian-American born in Chicago, and Sirat Al-Nahi, an Iraqi-American born in Seattle, who both wear Muslim head scarfs, said an older man at Kerbey Lane Café shouted they “should just go back to Saudi Arabia where she came from.” The restaurant moved the patron but did not make him leave, the women told Fox 7 TV.
Sarker Haque, who owns Fatima Food Mart in Queens in New York reported he was beaten Saturday by a customer who promised to “kill Muslims.” Haque was bleeding and bruised with a dislocated hand and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital for treatment, according to NY1-TV. Police charged Piro Kolvani, 55, of Jacksonville, Fla., with assault and criminal mischief in connection with the incident.
At the Islamic Center of Greater St. Louis, someone claiming to be a former Marine left a threatening voicemail Saturday. The incident is being investigated as a possible hate crime, Fox 2 TV in St. Louis reported.
In Palm Beach, Fla., someone broke windows in a prayer room at the Islamic Center. Police arrested Joshua Killets, 27, Friday in connection with the incident. He faces charges that include criminal mischief to a religious structure, according to WSVN-TV.
And the Manassas Mosque in Virginia received a voicemail threat Dec. 2, the night of the San Bernardino attacks that left 14 people fatally shot by a married Muslim couple who the FBI says was "radicalized." A caller to the mosque claiming to represent the Jewish Defense League referred to the California shooting and promised to “do to your people what you did to them,” according to a CAIR report.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said it also received complaints from three airline passengers pulled off planes since Dec. 2. Multiple death threats and other abusive comments have been directed at the group from phone callers, said Abed Ayoub, the committee's national legal and policy director.
He said all such incidents are reported to the FBI, noting the committee's office in Santa Anna, Calif., was bombed in 1985, killing regional director Alex Odeh, “so we have to take these seriously.”
Ayoub and Hooper said the current wave of bias is similar to what happened after the 9/11 terror attacks, but now more happens online and on social media, Ayoub said.
Hooper worried that Trump’s recent comments will stir even greater backlash against Muslims, but Ayoub said Trump has also sparked support for his group and Muslims.
“We have received a lot of outreach from our community partners, the Jewish, Christian and Hispanic community. More than in the past,” Ayoub said.
The group also received letters from many attorneys from across the country from different backgrounds, including Jews, who want to volunteer