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What Trump should do about anti-Muslim hate crimes

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In the five days after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded more than 400 incidents of "hateful harassment and intimidation" of minorities. The center, which monitors hate speech nationwide, drew on news accounts, direct reports and social media postings to find that many incidents "involved direct references to the Trump campaign and its slogans."

Other civil rights groups have reported a rash of verbal and physical abuse targeting minorities, including Muslims, blacks, Latinos, Jews, gays, and immigrants, around the country since Nov. 9, the day after the election. Clearly, the surge in hate incidents shows that Trump and his top advisers created a climate in which some supporters feel that they can openly express bigotry, racism and homophobia.

Muslims have suffered the biggest spike in attacks, partly because Trump singled out Islam for criticism throughout the campaign. On Nov. 14, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 surged to their highest level in more than a decade.

The FBI data showed there were 257 reports of attacks on mosques, assaults and other hate incidents against Muslims in 2015, compared to 154 incidents the previous year - an increase of about 67 percent. It was the highest number of incidents against Muslims recorded since 2001, when more than 480 attacks took place after Sept. 11. (Hate crimes against other groups also increased last year, according to the FBI, with anti-Jewish incidents rising by 9 percent, and anti-black crimes increasing by nearly 8 percent.)

The surge of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2015 was due to attacks on civilians in the United States and the West, many of which were claimed by supporters of Islamic State and its affiliates, and to the vitriolic tone of the presidential campaign. The rhetoric by Trump and some of his supporters sends a message that Muslim Americans, immigrants and other minority groups pose a danger to America.

It's unclear whether Trump views these attacks as a serious problem, but so far he has failed to make any substantial move to promote inclusion or to reach out to minority groups rightfully worried about his election. He also offered only a tepid condemnation of post-election abuses. On Nov. 13, during an interview with the CBS news program "60 Minutes," Trump was asked about reports of his supporters harassing Muslims and other minorities. He responded: "I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, 'Stop it.'"

And Trump has not eased fears with the early top appointments to his administration. The president-elect chose Stephen Bannon, a leader of the so-called "alt-right" movement who has expressed sympathy for white supremacist and neo-Nazi causes, as his chief White House strategist. Trump selected Jeff Sessions, a longtime U.S. senator from Alabama, as his attorney general, the nation's top law enforcement official. Sessions is a fierce opponent of immigration reform, and in 1986 Congress denied his confirmation as a federal judge because of concerns over racist comments and behavior.

Trump also appointed Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, as his national security adviser. Flynn has made inflammatory statements about Islam, comparing it to a "cancer" and claiming it's a political ideology that "definitely hides behind being a religion." In February, Flynn tweeted that "fear of Muslims is RATIONAL."

This vitriol is reinforced by Trump. In December, after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., Trump shocked the world when he called for a ban on all Muslim immigrants and visitors from entering the United States - until American leaders "can figure out what the hell is going on." During the presidential campaign, Trump called on law enforcement officials to increase surveillance of Muslim American communities and mosques. He also said he would consider registering Muslim Americans in a database, or requiring Muslims to carry special identification cards. He argued such measures would prevent future terrorist attacks.

Now that Trump has been elected president, many Muslim Americans fear that he and his confidantes will turn some of these proposals into reality. On Nov. 16, Carl Higbie, one of Trump's advisers, appeared on Fox News to defend the idea of a national registry of Muslims - a proposal that Trump repeated numerous times during the campaign.

To defend the idea's questionable legality, Higbie cited one of America's darkest periods: President Franklin D. Roosevelt's decision during World War Two to classify more than 100,000 Japanese, German and Italian immigrants as "enemy aliens." That 1942 executive order, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court, paved the way for the internment of tens of thousands of noncitizens and U.S. citizens of Japanese descent, following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

"I'm just saying there's a precedent for it," Higbie said, when challenged by Fox News host Megyn Kelly about the wisdom of establishing a national registry for Muslims.

After Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination, there was much discussion of whether he would adjust his views to appeal to a broader American public in the general election. But even after other Republican leaders denounced his comments, especially his attacks on the family of a decorated Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq, Trump refused to curtail his criticism of Islam. As long as that strategy won him votes, he had little incentive to disavow it.

In March, during an interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Trump declared flatly: "I think Islam hates us." When Cooper asked him to clarify whether the religion is at war with the West, Trump added, "There's a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There's an unbelievable hatred of us."

This kind of rhetoric has real-world consequences. After the November 2015 attacks in Paris by Islamic State operatives who killed more than 130 people, and the Dec. 2 shooting in San Bernardino by a Muslim couple who declared their support for Islamic State's leader, the FBI and civil rights groups logged a surge in hate crimes against Muslim Americans. While the FBI had tracked a monthly average of 12.6 suspected hate crimes against Muslims nationwide over several years; after the Paris attacks, the rate of incidents tripled, to 38, by mid-December.

The FBI statistics on nationwide hate crimes released last week offer an incomplete picture of the problem because local law enforcement agencies provide data voluntarily to the FBI, and many fail to report hate crimes. Even FBI Director James Comey acknowledged the problem of underreporting when he released the latest figures. "We need to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime to fully understand what is happening in our communities," he said, "and how to stop it."

Because many people fail to report hate crimes to local police, civil rights groups argue that the real number of such incidents is far larger than the annual FBI data indicates. One recent government study, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, estimated that there were 293,800 hate crimes in 2012 - about 50 times higher than the FBI numbers. The study found that 60 percent of incidents were not reported to police.

Today, as reports of hate crimes and harassment surge after a bitter presidential race, the onus is on Trump to tone down his own rhetoric and that of his advisers. But so far, the president-elect has shown little interest in tackling the wave of hatred and abuse that was partly unleashed by his campaign.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

21 Comments
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Unfortunately Mr. Bazzi, for Trump and his supporters, the hate isn't a bug, it's a feature.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Mohamad Bazzi has it quite wrong. Those saying that trump is about hare are the ones full of divisive conflict oriented perspectives. What Mr. Bazzi misses in his selective use of data is that the majority of the number of "hate crimes" that have occurred are antisemitic not anti-Islamic. Many of these acts were committed by Muslims. You can go to the FBI report on this to read for yourself, it lays it out quite nicely. Also of note is that today, over 100 Muslim pilgrims were killed in a terrorist attack committed by other Muslims. Clearly, for those seeking to lower the violence need to refocus to where the real threat to peaceful Muslims comes from, and here's a hint its not in the USA and its not from President Elect Trump.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

I do not believe Trump is a racist at all. His beautiful daughter Ivanka is married to a conservative Orthodox Jew. If Trump were truly racist, he would never have allowed that. As one who wears teh Star myself, I am more afraid of traveling to Muslim countries than to any others, except Malaysia which I find to be very open and kind to all.

Trump respects people. He has lots of minorities working for and with him too.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

293,800 hate crimes in 2012..? Can America even be considered a moral country anymore?

0 ( +4 / -4 )

"I do not believe Trump is a racist at all."

That's not the most important issue. It's difficult to know what Trump really is given the circus of outrageous statements and dramatic U-turns. The real issue is Trump playing to racist elements in the electorate - he certainly did this successfully.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The Southern Poverty Law Center is itself a Leftist hate group.

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

A crime is a crime, and in an equal society, all people are equally punished for committing a crime against any other person. I personally think that classifying crimes because of racial or other differences as "hate" crimes is silly. Hatred is an emotion, and like any other emotion, cannot be regulated. I hate condiments on sandwiches, I hate summers in Tokyo, I hate the character Elmo. Hatred happens. If hatred causes a person to commit a crime, it is the crime which must be punished, not the emotion which instigated it.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

There is a double standard for anything islamic these days. If they are muslim and they do something wrong, its radical. If it is anyone else it is hate. Look at the European countries and all they get to enjoy now because of the influx of refugees. There is no assimilation or acceptance in islam other then islam. For us to bury our heads in the sand and say different is wrong.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

WolfpackNOV. 25, 2016 - 12:27PM JST The Southern Poverty Law Center is itself a Leftist hate group.

Ah, there's the approach to reason that typifies this age. "Someone said something I don't like and extensively documented it with facts and evidence? I'll just say the complete and total opposite supported with no evidence at all!"

When historians of the future sift through the records of this time to find out why we burnt the world, I believe they'll refer to it as the Nuh-Uh Defense.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I see no problem with introducing racist policies and inciting hate speech and then trying to tamp it down a bit when the inevitable rightist reaction threatens to to bite you in the butt. Mobs are useful but must be kept under a modicum of control.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Also of note is that today, over 100 Muslim pilgrims were killed in a terrorist attack committed by other Muslims. Clearly, for those seeking to lower the violence need to refocus to where the real threat to peaceful Muslims comes from, and here's a hint its not in the USA and its not from President Elect Trump."

Yes, fanatical Muslims killing peaceful Muslims, or anybody else for that matter, is a huge problem.

I fail to see why this means Trump's appeals to bigotry during his campaign shouldn't be seen as a problem too.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The first thing he should do is stop encouraging hatred.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Ah, there's the approach to reason that typifies this age. "Someone said something I don't like and extensively documented it with facts and evidence? I'll just say the complete and total opposite supported with no evidence at all!"

The SPLC is concerned primarily with attacking the right and pretends that there is virtually no extremism on the Left.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/299011/occupy-southern-poverty-law-center-charles-c-w-cooke

This is why I do not associate with a political party anymore - it has become too easy for groups to take a tribalistic view of any issue and become blind to the problems on their own side. The Southern Poverty Law Center suffers from this blindness.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Trump does not encourage hatred. If he did, he would not have allowed his daughter to have married a Jew like myself and have them enter his family. He even has negro roots. Do some research before making bigoted comments.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

WolfpackNOV. 25, 2016 - 10:47PM JST Ah, there's the approach to reason that typifies this age. "Someone said something I don't like and extensively documented it with facts and evidence? I'll just say the complete and total opposite supported with no evidence at all!" The SPLC is concerned primarily with attacking the right and pretends that there is virtually no extremism on the Left. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/299011/occupy-southern-poverty-law-center-charles-c-w-cooke

So you took an opinion piece that has no traceable evidence to confirm that the phone conversation it depicts as evidence that a whole data-gathering organization is biased? An opinion piece whose very premise is based on the fallacy that "Occupy Wall-Street" had some kind of controlled membership whereby if 5 anarchists affiliate themselves with the movement that must mean the whole movement is composed of anarchists?

This isn't a matter of political party. This is a simple case of skepticism based on data. The SPLC collects reams and reams of data, and you're trying to pretend all of that data that presents a truth you're uncomfortable with is invalid because of one phone call that allegedly happened with someone who set out to make the SPLC look bad. That's not rational behavior.

Incidently, in your rush to criticize the SPLC you seem to have missed this little tidbit:

On Nov. 14, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 surged to their highest level in more than a decade.

Did you think if you focus on vague, unsourced hit-pieces that people would just forget the FBI broadly corroborates the trend they report? Or do you think the FBI is also a "leftist hate group"?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Correct me if I'm wrong, anyone, but aren't "hate crimes" still crimes, even if you take the word "hate" out of them?

Let the police catch criminals and prosecutors prosecute them. Crime is crime. Assault is assault. I have a hard time believing that a person attacked because they are walking alone feels any better than someone attacked for being Muslim.

Both are going to have a hard time recovering, and neither is going to feel safe for a while after.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have a hard time believing that a person attacked because they are walking alone feels any better than someone attacked for being Muslim.

Hate crimes aren't hate crimes because of how they make the person feel, it's because they are more damaging to society as a whole than a non-hate crime.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I do not believe Trump is a racist at all. His beautiful daughter Ivanka is married to a conservative Orthodox Jew. If Trump were truly racist, he would never have allowed that. As one who wears teh Star myself, I am more afraid of traveling to Muslim countries than to any others, except Malaysia which I find to be very open and kind to all.

Trump respects people. He has lots of minorities working for and with him too.

BINGO! Hit the nail right on the head!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

On Nov. 14, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 surged to their highest level in more than a decade.

Trump wasn't president on Nov. 14th or on any day in 2015. Seems your point is about Obama.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Trump wasn't president on Nov. 14th or on any day in 2015. Seems your point is about Obama.

Trump was stoking hatred of Muslims right around that time. His cult was well under way, so no, the point was about Trump.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hate crimes aren't hate crimes because of how they make the person feel, it's because they are more damaging to society as a whole than a non-hate crime.

I don't agree. Particularly because of the way crimes motivated by animus of certain demographic groupings are prosecuted. For example, statistically, for inter-racial crimes, white people are more likely to be the victims of black perpetrators than vice versa. However, whites are much more likely to be prosecuted for a hate crime than a black person. There is this idea that hate crimes are meant to target a certain race of people. That is itself damaging to society. A persons race does not in itself indicate that they are any more or less imperfect than a person of any other race. Those that think this way are themselves racist.

The police and prosecutors should not go about punishing peoples thoughts. Thinking cannot be a crime. But actions can be and that is what should be punished.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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