An upsurge in anti-Muslim activities across the United States in recent years has tracked closely with changes in the political cycle, according to data released in a new report by the New America Foundation. The report, “Anti-Muslim Activities in the United States: Violence, Threats, and Discrimination at the Local Level,” tracks more than 650 separate anti-Muslim incidents across the country since 2012. These incidents include public denunciations of Islam and Muslims by elected officials, proposed laws targeting Muslim religious practice, mosque vandalism, and acts of violence.
According to the data, these incidents have markedly increased in recent years, with public attitudes toward Islam and Muslims darkening significantly. But it’s not clear that these attitudes are being driven solely by acts of terrorism committed by Muslims. Several major terrorist attacks that took place during the period of the study did not produce a surge in recorded anti-Muslim incidents. Those attacks that did coincide with increased anti-Muslim incidents came in particular political contexts. The largest spike in the incidents came after the November 2015 terrorist strike in Paris, but the attack at the Bataclan came as the 2016 presidential campaign was getting into full swing, with Donald Trump’s candidacy propelling anti-Muslim sentiment into the spotlight.
“Looking at the statistics it is clear that the rise in these incidents are tied to the election cycle,” said Robert McKenzie, a senior fellow at New America and the author of the report. “If spikes in anti-Muslim activity only occurred due to terrorism we would expect to see more incidents following high-profile attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing and Charlie Hebdo, but we didn’t. What we do have are folks running for elected office who are using megaphones to talk about how dangerous Muslims are.”
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