Last year, hate crimes against Muslims in the United States surged by 67 percent, reaching their highest levels since the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, according to FBI data released on Monday.
In 2015, there were 257 reported crimes rooted in anti-Muslim bias, up from 154 incidents the previous year. Notably, this uptick coincided with a GOP presidential primary in which a candidate who decried the Justice Department’s concern with violent, anti-Muslim rhetoric finished second to one who proposed banning all Muslims from the country (these positions were themselves inspired by terror attacks in San Bernardino, California, and Paris, France).
There are two very different ways one might link the prominence of Islamophobic rhetoric to the increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. The first, and most obvious, is that the former inspired violent bigots to attack more Muslim people. The second, which the Associated Press alludes to, is that awareness of this threat prompted increased reporting by victims of such attacks.
The latter hypothetical is not necessarily more optimistic, as it implies the level of anti-Muslim violence in the United States has long been higher than FBI data has suggested.
Regardless, 2015’s total almost certainly provides a low-ball estimate, as many local law-enforcement agencies do not report hate crime statistics to the FBI. In fact, 3 percent fewer agencies contributed such data to the FBI in 2015 than in 2014, even as the number of reported incidents vastly increased.
Overall, religious-based hate crimes jumped by 23 percent last year, with attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions accounting for 53 percent of those reported. Crimes against Jews rose 9 percent, relative to 2014.
The data also showed a sharp increase in attacks against transgender people.
Last Tuesday, the candidate who campaigned on barring Muslims from America was elected the nation’s president. Reports of racist and anti-religious incidents have proliferated in the six days since.