x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 December 2017

Hate crime and Islamophobia increases after Trump victory

Civil liberties organisations reported incidents in a number of states targeting Muslims, and there were hundreds of reports of intimidation and physical attacks on social media. Most of the reports involved racist graffiti or verbal abuse.

Hundreds of anti-Donald Trump protesters hold a demonstration in Washington Square Park as New Yorkers react to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States on November 11, 2016 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
Hundreds of anti-Donald Trump protesters hold a demonstration in Washington Square Park as New Yorkers react to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States on November 11, 2016 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP

WASHINGTON // Reports of hate crimes and intimidation of American Muslims and other minority groups have increased in the days since Donald Trump’s shock election victory on the back of the most xenophobic campaign in modern US history.

Civil liberties organisations reported incidents in a number of states targeting Muslims, and there were hundreds of reports of intimidation and physical attacks on social media. Most of the reports involved racist graffiti or verbal abuse.

Human rights groups and Muslim organisations reported that they began to be contacted about reports of attacks on Muslims immediately after the election results were confirmed. Women wearing hijabs were harassed on the streets; children at school were told they were not welcome; Islamic spaces were vandalised. Many more said they were intimidated by the uncertainty of their futures in a country where open racism and Islamophobia is apparently becoming more acceptable.

American Muslims were not the only targets. At the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, at least 100 incoming first-year African-American students on the campus social media platform GroupMe were added to a group called “Nigger Lynching” and sent racist threats and historical pictures of murdered black people hanging from trees by users with names such as “Daddy Trump.”

Oussama Jammal, Secretary General of the US Council of Muslim Organisation in Washington, said he was in contact with the FBI to investigate these hate crimes. He said families had called and emailed his organisation to report the attacks and asking for advice on how to respond.

“Children woke up [to the news] and asked: Are we going to be enslaved again? Muslim children asked are we going to be deported,” he said. “Muslim [pupils] were called names and bullied at school, and told they would be kicked out. Children are truly living in fear, and so are their parents.”

A mosque at New York University’s Brooklyn campus was vandalised within hours of Mr Trump’s election. Although there was no significant physical damage, the university’s Muslim community was left shaken and angered after someone wrote “Trump” across the door of the school’s mosque.

RJ Khalaf, the treasurer of the Muslim Students Association at NYU, said they feared for their safety, particularly hijab-wearing girls, who are easily identifiable as Muslim.

“We do know it was an anti-Muslim crime,” he said. “[The culprit] knew it was a Muslim space. A place to come and feel safe.”

Mr Jammal said it was crucial for Muslims to report all crimes to the local police force and the FBI.

“[Attacks] should not be tolerated, they should be reported immediately,” he said. “No one should be afraid. We are still in a country of law and order. Each and every American has constitutional rights and these are protected by law.”

Mr Jammal said attacks would not stop without action from Mr Trump. He said it was crucial for the US president-elect to repudiate anti-Muslim hate and walk back the xenophobic rhetoric about Muslims, refugees and immigrants that were a key part of his successful campaign, to try to not divide the country further.

“If Mr Trump fails to show that he is a president for all of America, divisions will worsen,” he said. “We welcome his acceptance speech, but we want to see … a much stronger speech to [put an end to] campaign rhetoric.”

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Friday, Mr Trump was asked if he thought his campaign rhetoric had gone too far. “No,” he responded. “I won.”

Many non-Muslim Americans who were equally shocked by Mr Trump’s election, tried to offer solidarity to their Muslim neighbours, friends and colleagues.

The Muslim Students Association at NYU was sent flowers and a note apologising for the hate vandalism, while many Muslims reported on social media that neighbours and strangers offered them hugs and other statements of solidarity and support were shared on social media.

Seher H, a Muslim mother of two from Atlanta said unity was vital to restore hope. She compared the aftermath of “11/9” to the same experienced after “9/11”.

“Will living in fear help anyone? This is the time we need to be united,” she said.

Rana Barbour, a 31-year-old from Chicago, agreed.

“Our work is now more important than ever and we need to continue to build bridges between different groups in the US. We will always be stronger together,” she said. “Lets not forget that Hilary did win the popular vote.”

Moving forward, Mokhtar Awad, a research fellow on the programme on extremism at George Washington University, said there was a sliver of hope from “good Republicans who might do their job and keep [him] honest and keep him in check”.

A large proportion of American Muslims are either immigrants from the Middle East or have origins in the region, and many are anxiously watching how Mr Trump shapes his foreign policy once in office. He has offered conflicting messages, but a running thread through his remarks are a discarding of human rights concerns in the fight against ISIL extremists, and working with the Syrian regime against terrorist groups.

“[I’m] concerned about what his Middle East policy is going to be,” Mr Awad said. and whether “he will be able to strengthen alliances in the region and put forward a plan to end the civil war in Syria.”

Mr Awad said the president-elect’s biggest test next year would be delivering on his promise to double down on the combating ISIL.

“He is under pressure to preform and deliver,” he said. “The worry is if he overreaches or jeopardises the little progress made so far.”

Mr Trump “strikes me as someone who could be amenable” and influenced by advisers as foreign affairs are not his area of expertise.

Some of his advisers, such as his chief Middle East adviser, Walid Phares, hold explicitly Islamophobic views.

A Syrian-American father of two from Virginia, also worried that Mr Trump’s foreign policy would have a negative effect on the region.

“I have to remain hopeful — there is no other option at this point,” he said. “What I hope is that it’s not as bad as it looks — anything better than absolutely terrible. If he would just stop talking about women, foreigners, immigrants, Mexicans, blacks, Muslims the way he talks about them.”

Dr Fatima Al Dhaheri, an Emirati physician in Washington, said the Emirati community had reached out to one another offering comfort and support after the election. Dr Al Dhaheri still believed the country was safe to visit for Emiratis, as they were in no more danger than any other Muslim.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae