By Abdus Sattar Ghazali
February 18, 2017
The number of anti-Muslim hate groups nearly tripled from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016. That’s just one of the dramatic statistics in a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
This annual count from the SPLC includes groups like the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other white nationalists, along with anti-government patriot groups and anti-LGBT groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Senior Fellow, Mark Potok, says their numbers have consistently been on the rise since about 2000. The radical right out there is booming. The number of hate groups rose from 892 groups in 2015 to 917 last year.
According to Mark Potok more and more, people on the radical right don’t connect directly with hate groups but instead lurk on the internet until they decide action is needed. A good example, he pointed out, is mass murderer Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-Americans in a South Carolina church in 2015 and apparently did not have direct contact with hate groups or white supremacists.
The Washington Post pointed out that the new arrivals to the 2016 SPLC list included white nationalist groups such as the campus-based Identity Evropa in California and the 29 clubs created by the popular neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, which changed its masthead from “The World’s Most Visited Alt-Right Web Site” to “America’s #1 Most-Trusted Republican News Source” the day after the election.
The SPLC has seen repeatedly over the years how rhetoric from figures like presidential candidates and others in the public eye can fuel that kind of hatred and violence, says Stephen Piggott of SPLC. Several years ago, the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding came up with similar findings in a study. It found that spikes in anti-Muslim sentiment typically occur during election cycles — not so much in the aftermath of Islamist terror attacks, as many had assumed.
There’s little doubt that certain politicians and activists like Brigitte Gabriel are feeding the fires of hatred and religious violence. And President-elect Trump’s appointments of anti-Muslim ideologues suggest that that will continue. But the convergence of the Patriot movement, which has been marked by political violence since first emerging in the 1990s, and the anti-Muslim movement that has surged more recently, is creating serious dangers of its own. While Patriots may see a White House ally in Trump — and therefore lose some of their animus toward the federal government — they are finding new enemies in Islam.
Tellingly, on Thursday, five vandalism cases were reported by Howard County in Maryland; in two incidents the name “Trump” was spray-painted on vehicles. One of the families whose vehicle was vandalized identifies as Hispanic, and family members are concerned that they were targeted because of their national origin, even though they are legal residents.
“This is one more disturbing example of the impact that the current administration’s decisions and policies are having on ordinary Americans,” said the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Maryland Outreach Manager Dr. Zainab Chaudry. “We encourage law enforcement authorities to conduct a swift and thorough investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, has noted an unprecedented spike in hate incidents targeting American Muslims and other minority groups since the election of President Donald Trump.
Attempt To Crush Muslim Civil Advocacy Organizations
According to AlterNet News, a new initiative advanced by right-wing Republicans in Congress and reportedly backed by the Trump administration puts American Muslim civil society groups in the government’s crosshairs. Without the same outraged protests or condemnatory press conferences inspired by Trump’s travel ban targeting visitors and dual citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, the lesser-known effort is aimed at crushing robust Muslim civil society organizing in the United States, using the framework of the war on terror.
The initiative aims to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, a designation that in practice is likely to provide a vehicle for a network of anti-Muslim crusaders to hound unaffiliated, mainstream Muslim organizations and potentially criminalize their leadership, the AlterNet said adding:
“The effort emanates from fringe conspiracy theorists who, backed by a well-heeled Islamophobia industry, espouse the unfounded claim that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the far reaches of the U.S. government. These fringe figures charge that prominent political players, from Huma Abedin to Grover Norquist to Keith Ellison, are operating as secret agents of the organization.”
Arjun Singh Sethi, a civil rights lawyer and professor at Georgetown University Law Center, told AlterNet that this effort represents “version 2.0 of the Muslim ban and will be used as a vehicle to attack and smear Muslim civic and political organizations in the United States. The $57 million Islamophobia industry will do anything in its power to arbitrarily and erroneously link groups in the United States to the Muslim Brotherhood. These accusations alone can destroy reputations and tarnish organizations forever.”
According to Stephen Piggott of the SLPC, the White House is reportedly weighing options to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, according to several news outlets. Such a move would amount to a powerful policy win for America’s anti-Muslim movement, whose leaders have worked tirelessly to smear American Muslim civil rights organizations, in particular the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), by calling them “fronts” for the Brotherhood.
Pressure from the anti-Muslim movement for this designation has only increased since the election, Piggott said and added: A new coalition of mostly anti-Muslim religious figures, dubbed “Faith Leaders of America,” descended upon the National Press Club the day before Trump’s inauguration to implore him to take action on the Muslim Brotherhood. Part of the coalition’s “call to prayer” read, “When you label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, we support you.”
This January, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Ted Cruz introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act in both congressional chambers.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America