Dave Zajac / Record-Journal / AP

Incidents targeting US mosques triple in 2015, report says

The Council of American-Islamic Relations found 71 hostile actions, including vandalism, threats and harassment

Vandalism, harassment and other actions targeting mosques in the United States became far more frequent in 2015 compared to the previous year, a new report released Friday found .

The study by the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) found 71 hostile actions against Muslim houses of worship this year ­— including a march by armed protesters at a mosque in Richardson, Texas, in November and the placing of a severed pig’s head outside a mosque in Philadelphia earlier this month.

The total for 2015 is more than three times that in 2014. But CAIR said the actual number of incidents is probably far higher because many are not reported to the police or press.

“When I visit mosques, they will tell me all about the types of calls they’ve been getting,” said CAIR’s Corey Saylor, referring to threats and hate speech. “Many of the things they tell me about should absolutely get reported to law enforcement, but there’s desensitization because they’re so used to it by now, and they’ll just hang up or throw the letter out.”

A big spike in Islamophobic incidents came after the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that killed 130 people. Between the date of the attacks and the end of November, there were reports of 15 incidents targeting mosques.

Just hours after the Paris attacks, for example, multiple gunshots were fired at Baitul Aman mosque in Meriden, Connecticut. On the same day, the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg in Florida received an expletive-laden voicemail threatening to “firebomb you, shoot who’s ever there on Friday. I don’t care if you’re ... 2 years old or 100.” The caller left a similar message for the nearby Islamic Society of Pinellas County.

Saylor said the increase in incidents targeting mosques is in part a reaction to recent violent attacks in San Bernardino as well as Paris. But he said other factors contribute, including when public figures stoke anti-Muslim views, such as presidential candidate Donald Trump with his call to ban Muslims from entering the country and conservative political commentator Pamela Geller, who is provocative and outspoken in her warnings about what she calls the “Islamization of America.”

Rep. Donald Beyer, D-Va. addresses members of the Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque in Falls Church, Va., after Friday's prayers on December 4, 2015.
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Amid the apparent rise in anti-Muslim sentiments in the country, a resolution was introduced to the House on Thursday “condemning violence, bigotry and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims.”

The bill was introduced by Rep. Donald Beyer, D-Va., who recently visited Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a mosque that was attacked on Nov. 23 with smoke bombs and a Molotov cocktail causing property damage.

“We must show that we will not tolerate this anti-Muslim discrimination and that those who propagate it do not represent the melting-pot America that we celebrate,” said Beyer said in a statement. “These harmful words eventually lead to the very acts of violence many came to our country to escape in the first place.”

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