Southern Poverty Law Center finds disturbing growth in anti-Muslim hate groups in 2016

“Trump’s election has been absolutely electrifying to the radical right,” says the SPLC.

Tom Garing cleans up racist graffiti painted on the side of a mosque in what officials are calling an apparent hate crime, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, in Roseville, Calif. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
Tom Garing cleans up racist graffiti painted on the side of a mosque in what officials are calling an apparent hate crime, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, in Roseville, Calif. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

The number of anti-Muslim hate groups increased almost three-fold in 2016, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The SPLC’s quarterly census of hate groups found that anti-Muslim hate groups increased from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year.

Mark Potok, a Senior Fellow at the SPLC, pointed to Trump’s rhetoric about Muslims and his election victory to explain some of the increase in anti-Muslim hate across the country.

“I think the most important factor probably driving the growth of these groups, in the states at least, has been Donald Trump and his campaign: his vilification of Muslims; his description of them as so dangerous that we need to keep them out of the country; his idea that we have to form a registry, Nazi-esque registry, in which we’re going to put down the names of all Muslim Americans; his proposal to surveil mosques; and on and on and on,” said Potok.


The SPLC report also found that the number of overall hate groups in the country increased for the second consecutive year — from 892 in 2015 to 917 last year. That number is 101 less than the all-time high of 1018 groups in 2011, but the increase is still troubling.

“There’s something going on in our country, and it’s fairly dramatic,” Potok said in a call with reporters. “I don’t think I’m telling anyone anything they don’t know, when I say that Trump’s election has been absolutely electrifying to the radical right.”

But Potok also said that the number is probably an underestimate of the true state of the radical right in the United States. “I say that because we’ve seen a very clear phenomenon of more and more people on the radical right never really engaging with brick-and-mortar hate groups on the ground out there in the real world. Instead, we find many more of them essentially lurking on the internet until the day that they decide, in some cases, that action is needed, and ‘action’ more often than not means murder or equally scary criminal activities.” Potok pointed to Dylan Roof, the white supremacist responsible for the Charleston massacre in 2015, as one example of this.

The SPLC report also includes an interactive map of where hate groups exist across the country as well as a breakdown of the groups and individuals targeting different communities. One of the organizations the SPLC labels an anti-Muslim extremist group is the Center for Security Policy, which Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway previously worked with.

“Outside of the Christian right, which is a relatively well-funded sector of the hate world, the anti-Muslim groups are by far the best-funded radical right-wing groups we see in this country,” Potok said. “Just to give a single example, David Horowitz, who is the leader of something called the David Horowitz Freedom Center and a really vicious anti-Muslim ideologue, makes (at least as of 2014) an annual salary of $567,000. So hating on Muslims pays rather well in the United States these days.”


While there was in increase in the number of hate groups, the SPLC found a 38 percent decrease in the number of anti-government “patriot” groups in the country, and he explained that may be because the individuals in those groups support Trump and his policies.

“I think what was really happening is that Donald Trump is so revered by so many people in these groups, that they have essentially stood back, thinking that Donald Trump is going to do all of the things that they wish they could do themselves,” Potok explained. “In many ways, Trump has co-opted these groups, co-opted their issues in terms of land use, in terms of guns, in terms of opposition to immigration, in terms of seeing Muslims as a threat to the United States and American civilization, and so on.”

The SPLC report confirms ThinkProgress’ own reporting. In the three months following the election, we found 261 hate incidents across the country. 41.7 percent of those incidents were specifically connected with Trump, his election, or his policies in some way. 11.8 percent targeted the Muslims—a high proportion given the small size of the Muslim community in the United States.

Learn more about the alarming growth of hate groups in the U.S. here: