Around Thanksgiving Day, a holiday when most Americans reflect on values of gratitude and community, the group “Americans for a Better Way” sent anonymous letters to mosques and Islamic centers threatening the genocide of all Muslims.
The targeted Islamic spaces throughout California were in San Jose, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge and Claremont as well as in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The letters referred to Muslims as “children of Satan” and pledged their allegiance to Trump. They declared that he will get rid of all Muslims in America and that he do will “to you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.”
Regardless of whether you support President-elect Trump or not, as a nation we cannot stand for this bigotry. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right guaranteed to all Americans, and it does not change depending on who’s president.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a civil rights organization specialized in representing people of Islamic faith and has counted more than 100 anti-Muslim hate crimes since the presidential election and believes the rhetoric of a Trump victory is partially to blame.
“This hate campaign targeting California houses of worship must be investigated as an act of religious intimidation,” said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “Our state’s leaders should speak out against the growing anti-Muslim bigotry that leads to such incidents.”
This increase in hate toward Muslims is not a new phenomena. In 2015, there were 257 reports of assaults, attacks on mosques and other hate crimes against Muslims — a 67 percent increase from 2014 — according to The New York Times. These increases in hate crimes are not normal, and they should be a cause for alarm for everyone.
Trump’s rhetoric toward Muslim people, Syrian refugees and people of color has tapped into a fear and xenophobic anger toward Islamic people that has been present in this country long before Trump vowed “to make America great again.”
Blair Imani, a Muslim woman living in New York City, told “This American Life” she no longer felt safe wearing a hijab and began purchasing hats as way to continue to cover her head in public without being immediately labeled as a Muslim woman.
A Muslim student at San Diego State University was the victim of a hate crime when two male suspects targeted her on campus because of her religion and also made comments about Trump’s election. The student was not hurt, but her keys were stolen and her car later went missing.
No one should be denied their constitutional right of religious protection. No one should ever fear being attacked because of their identity. No one should ever feel uncomfortable actively practicing their religion.
The hateful and threatening language in the letter, as well as the support for Trump’s rhetoric of hate, is not only reflective of the bigotry that’s been present in our country since its formation, but is a reinforcement that this behavior is acceptable given the recent election results.
The epidemic of hate is affecting more than just the Muslim population. The Southern Poverty Law Center has counted over 700 incidents of harassment of people from marginalized communities between Nov. 9-16.
Although we live in a country that’s built on racism, we also live in a country that has a history of fighting and mobilizing for civil rights, and it’s important this tradition lives on. Now is the time to act.
We are all responsible for each other, and it’s our duty to look out for the safety of one another. Tangible actions such as donating money to civil rights groups like the ACLU or CAIR, opposing policies or bills that target underrepresented groups and active support of people from those marginalized communities are necessary. No one should feel comfortable being passive in the face of such hate.