Originally published at MintPress News.
AUSTIN, Texas — America seems to be in the grips of an epidemic of hate and bigotry unseen since 9/11, and, once again, innocent Muslims are the target of threats and outright violence.
Mainstream media and social media have been flooded with troubling reports of Islamophobia across the country in recent weeks.
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told MintPress News, “We’ve seen a tremendous spike in anti-Muslim bigotry in our society fomented by individuals like Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum and others. We’ve seen a spike in hate crimes as well.”
An escalating series of statements made by Trump, including a recent call for a “complete ban” on all Muslims entering the United States, have inflamed an already intense atmosphere in which candidates and right-wing media sources like Fox News compete to broadcast the most extreme anti-Muslim propaganda.
Here are five examples that paint a troubling picture of the growing risks of everyday life for Muslims in America:
- New York City, New York — Inside Edition reported last week on a Nov. 19 incident in which 6th graders at P.S. 89, a middle school in the Bronx, assaulted a Muslim student, severely beating her as they tore at her hijab and repeatedly called her “ISIS.” Police responded to a 911 call but never filed a report. The boys involved will reportedly face a disciplinary hearing at the school.
- Twin Falls, Idaho — On Dec. 5, An unknown vandal spraypainted the words “Hunt Camp?” on boarded-up windows of the Islamic Center of Twin Falls, which is under construction. Locals have speculated the words refer to the Minidoka Internment Camp, known locally as the Hunt Camp, one of several sites where 13,000 innocent Japanese-Americans were imprisoned by the U.S. government during WWII. Regional news outlet Beaumont Enterprise noted it was the second time the center has been vandalized: “In 2011, shortly before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, someone spray-painted a swastika on the building.” In a letter to the editor of Twin Falls Times-News, area resident Blake T. Walsh said the vandal’s “ignorance and bigotry represent the worst of America.”
- Austin, Texas –– On Dec. 6, two American-born, hijab-wearing Muslim women, Leilah Abdennabi and Sirat Al-Nahi, were harassed by another patron at the University of Texas at Austin-area location of Kerbey Lane, a popular local diner chain. The customer told the women they should “go back to Saudi Arabia” and repeatedly asked if they had guns. Abdennabi’s account of the harassment went viral on Facebook, and Kerbey Lane CEO Mason Ayer quickly apologized for the inaction of the restaurant’s staff, including the manager who refused to help the women. Ayer told The Austin Chronicle: “It makes me sick to my stomach,” and promised better training for all employees.
- Castro Valley, California — As Rasheed Albeshari waited for three of his friends to finish their prayers in a small, regional park on Dec. 6, a woman approached the group, accusing them of being “murderers” and saying, “Allah is Satan.” When Albeshari attempted to calm the woman down, he told ABC News that she assaulted him with her umbrella and threw hot coffee in his face. The Alameda County District Attorney is reportedly considering hate crimes charges against the woman, since identified as Denise Slader, an employee of the California Department of Corrections.
- Grand Forks, North Dakota — Investigators believe a Dec. 8 fire that severely damaged the Juba Cafe, a popular Somali-owned local business, was set intentionally. Although firefighters quickly brought the blaze under control, it still caused an estimated $90,000 in damage. Police are also investigating a Dec. 3 vandalism incident at the restaurant, when someone painted the words “go home” along with a Nazi symbol on the building’s facade. Dozens of community members held a vigil at the cafe the night after the fire to show their support for its owners.
Although she’s been flooded with messages of support on social media since her story went viral, Abdennabi told MintPress that in addition to the unwillingness of the manager to come to their aid, one of the most troubling aspects of her encounter with Islamophobia was the inaction of the other customers. For example, she said, “If they heard a customer talking like this to us and about us, talking to the manager and asking them to remove this person” would be a simple way of helping.
While she said she understands that people like to avoid confrontation, she added: “If you see somebody upset, you can support that person just by getting up and standing near them, making sure they’re Ok.”
CAIR’s Hooper echoed her sentiments. “In an actual anti-Muslim incident, we would hope people would support the Muslim victim, but sometimes people are just human, they don’t think quickly enough, can’t react in time, or wish they’d done more when they have time to think about it,” he said.
However, with incidents occurring almost daily, he stressed the importance of Americans showing solidarity with their Muslim neighbors:
Don’t wait for it to happen. Take the initiative and go visit a local mosque — that’s probably the best thing. All mosques are open to the public and you can just visit it, say hello, … start talking to people. Muslims love to talk about their faith and what they believe.