The 2016 election cycle could be contributing to a rise in hate crimes against Muslim people in the United States, according to a study published by Georgetown University.
Some of the incidents can be directly linked to GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who employed anti-Muslim rhetoric in the wake of events like the terrorist attacks in Paris, according to the report. Generally, the uptick in violence can be traced back to the beginning of the campaign season in 2015.
“Mr. Trump made many anti-Muslim statements during televised appearances on mainstream news media outlets, impacting millions of viewers across the U.S. and around the world,” the study notes. “As Mr. Trump called for shutting down mosques in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks and the mass shootings in San Bernardino, California in December 2015, anti-Muslim attacks initially tripled with nearly half of those attacks directed against mosques.”
There was a surge in hate crimes in December, on the heals of the attacks in Paris. Of the 53 total attacks that month, 17 targeted mosques and Islamic schools and five targeted Muslim homes. Anti-Muslim attacks occurred almost on a daily basis in December — sometimes multiple times a day — and constituted a third of all such crimes for the entire year of 2015, according to the report.
“Among the incidents noted were the murders of three university students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the murder of an Iranian-American in California by a white supremacist, and a road-rage incident in Houston in which a Palestinian-American man was killed by a man who told him to ‘go back to Islam,'” the report notes.
According to the Intercept, one of Trump’s favorite talking points is the description of what would be a war crime if it actually happened — but it did not. He describes a debunked incident in the Philippines in which U.S. General John Pershing executed Muslim prisoners of war with bullets dipped in pig blood as effective counter-terrorism policy.
“He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pig’s blood,” Trump said during a speech in February. “And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person he said ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem, OK?”
Pershing, in fact, tried to minimize casualties. The “pigs blood” story apparently came from a threat he never acted on.
Regardless, the Intercept points out that while Trump’s rhetoric has appalled many, it’s only caused support for him to surge among his followers.
“This report throws into sharper relief the relationship between anti-Muslim rhetoric and acts or threats of violence targeting the American Muslim community,” Nathan Lean, a researcher on the report, told the Intercept. “It’s important to note, of course, that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. But in an election climate such as this, we must acknowledge the potential wide-ranging consequences of stigmatizing and politicizing an already-vulnerable minority group.”
The report calls into question whether anti-Muslim violence inspired by Trump and the election cycle has been comparable to the spike in hate crimes after 9/11.
“The data reveals that acts and threats of anti-Muslim violence remained significantly higher than pre- 9/11 levels with American Muslims approximately six (6) to nine (9) times more likely to suffer threats and attacks. During 2015, American Muslim men were twice as likely to be victims of physical assaults and five (5) to six (6) times more likely to be murdered,” the report says.
Since last March, when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz launched his presidential campaign, there have been 180 reported acts or threats of anti-Muslim violence, according to the report.
“This kind of rhetoric makes us all less safe and less free, because it feeds us fear,” Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, told the Intercept. “Fear of imagined enemies within makes us more accepting of authoritarianism, conformity and prejudice, and poses a real threat to our democracy in the long-term.”