The Disturbing Rise Of Islamophobia In America

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Ayesha Mian, left of Arlington, Va., and Salma Hasan Ali, of Washington, attend a Friday prayer service during a gathering of Muslims outside the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 13, 2015, in the wake of the murder of three young North Carolina Muslims.

Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary of the shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina — a year that has seen a dramatic increase in Islamophobic rhetoric and actions from ordinary people and politicians alike.

On February 10, 2015, Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were gunned down in their home by their neighbor, 46-year-old Craig Stephen Hicks. Police initially said the shooting was due to a parking dispute, although many Muslims, including two of the victims’ father, demanded the shooting be investigated as a hate crime.

Before the shooting, the students had taken multiple steps to avoid the wrath of their neighbor, including distributing copies of the parking lot map to family and friends, with unassigned spaces where they could park highlighted. On the day of the shooting, none of the three victims had parked in parking spaces assigned to Hicks.

“It’s time people started talking about how real Islamophobia is — that it’s not just a word tossed around for political purposes but that it has literally knocked on our doorstep and killed three of our American children,” Suzanne Barakat, Deah’s sister, told The New Yorker after the shooting.

Barakat’s words ring true a year later, as Islamophobia is on the rise in the United States — both in actions and rhetoric.

In the last three months alone, ThinkProgress has found at least sixty-five incidents in which Muslims throughout the country have been subject to shootings, personal assaults, harassment, and attacks on their houses of worship. In one particularly horrifying incident in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an armed robber shot a store clerk in the face after calling him a “terrorist” and demanding money. The robber put the barrel of his gun into the clerk’s mouth, but the clerk turned his head before he was shot, so that the bullet exited his cheek. The robber also suggested that the store clerk, who was of Indian descent, was part of ISIS, and he added that he used to kill people like him in Iraq.

Note: We are updating our list and map as more incidents occur. Last updated: 2/10/2016

Anti-Islam Incidents Since Paris Attacks, November 13, 2015

The 2016 presidential campaign has also seen blatant Islamophobia, and the rhetoric of many candidates has likely fueled an environment where such acts can take place. Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of allowing Muslims into the United States. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) commended Trump’s plan, and has called for banning Muslim Syrian refugees. Jeb Bush similarly proposed a religious test for Syrian refugees, where those “who can prove [they] are a Christian” would be allowed to come to the United States. Ben Carson said that Islam is not consistent with the U.S. Constitution, and suggested Muslims should be disqualified to be president of the United States. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) denounced President Obama’s recent visit to a mosque in Baltimore and dismissed Islamophobia in the United States, saying “there’s going to be discrimination in America of every kind.”

Despite the rise in Islamophobia, the families and friends of the victims of the Chapel Hill shooting are continuing the victims’ humanitarian efforts, including offering free dental services domestically and abroad, educational opportunities for people in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas, and feeding the homeless, as well as other social services, according to the endowment set up in the victims’ honor. “As we mark this day, we want to honor the request of the families to not memorialize Our Three Winners, but to focus on using their legacy as a way to inspire others to give back to their local communities and to be real shining examples of Islam in the world,” read a Facebook post on a page set up by the victims’ families and friends. “Their memories will stay with not only their families but the countless lives they touched with their altruistic spirit.”

Hicks is still in prison awaiting trial, while the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of North Carolina is investigating whether the shooting was a hate crime.