The Huffington Post tracked Islamophobia in the U.S. throughout 2016. Here’s what we learned.
Christopher Mathias National Reporter, The Huffington Post/01/23/2017 09:53 am ET
After the 2015 terror attack in Paris, when Donald Trump and other GOP presidential candidates were ratcheting up their anti-Muslim political speech, we started a running list of Islamophobic acts. Sadly, in less than two months, the list became so long the webpage often wouldn’t load.
This made us recognize the very real surge in anti-Muslim incidents sweeping the nation — a surge many wanted to deny was happening at all. (Think Fox News host Eric Bolling saying he “hadn’t heard of any” anti-Muslim hate crimes.)
So we developed The Islamophobia Project, and committed to tracking anti-Muslim violence, vandalism, discrimination, public policy and political speech throughout 2016.
CAIR – ST LOUIS – America 2016. A man with a gun screams at a Muslim family near St. Louis. “You Muslin?” he allegedly said. “All of you should die.”
The timing of the incidents we collected helped reveal patterns. We discovered that Trump supporters attacked, harassed, or plotted to kill Muslims at least 13 times during the election cycle, proving a potential link between Trump’s rhetoric and the actions of supporters. We documented apparent surges in anti-Muslim incidents during Muslim holidays.
It’s now been a year, and our project is a sad and seemingly endless scroll through nearly 400 stories of Muslims in America being attacked, threatened, scapegoated, and profiled, seeing their places of worship vandalized and their faith denigrated.
An email address we set up as a source for tips — firstname.lastname@example.org — generated hundreds of responses. Many people expressed gratitude for the project. One email led to a story about a Muslim Army veteran who found the word “terrorist” written on his locker. Mostly, we received anti-Muslim hate mail.
Our reporters and editors were attacked on anti-Muslim hate group sites and trolled relentlessly on Twitter ― signs that the project was making waves.
And, if you scroll through the tracker to March 10, 2016, you’ll read about the then-frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary saying: “I think Islam hates us.”
So much cynicism and misinformation was packed into those five words. That Trump could say them and go on to get elected president of the United States underscores just how successfully Muslims have been designated the “other” in this country.
When a group is an “other,” it’s easier to attack them, or to strip them of their civil rights. Our tracker documented this time and again.
But in another sense, Islamophobia isn’t something that can ever be tracked comprehensively. There’s too much of it, and not every instance becomes a headline.
It’s ubiquitous in the daily lives of Muslim Americans. It’s when a Muslim mom tells her daughter to maybe not wear the hijab today. It’s a Muslim father having to explain to his children that no, they’re citizens, they can’t be deported. It’s how almost every Muslim in a movie is depicted as a terrorist, and it’s why cable news channels only ask Muslims if if they condemn terrorism.
With the rise of Trump, the silver lining is that now, more people seem to be paying attention to anti-Muslim hate. Media organizations are covering the subject more robustly. The nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica has launched its own project, called “Documenting Hate,” and The New York Times has started a weekly column on the subject called, “This Week in Hate.”
This year, we won’t be updating the Islamophobia Tracker. The story is so much bigger than a dataset now. But we will continue telling stories of hate and extremism. And we will pay close attention to the new presidential administration that seems hell-bent on vilifying Muslims and persecuting them.
Having tracked hate for a year, we’re able to see that people who disparaged Muslim Americans are mostly reading from the same old script. It’s possible even to look at our project as a kind of how-to guide for anti-Muslim bigotry ― a list of six “rules” of Islamophobia in America.
And if we’re going to help protect our Muslim neighbors, coworkers, friends and family, these are six “rules” that desperately need to be dismantled and destroyed.
Rule 1: Muslims are not American.
Mark Wilson via Getty Images
“Go back to your country,” a man screamed at worshipers leaving a Connecticut mosque. “C**t, you don’t belong in this country. Go back to your fucking country,” another man shouted at a Muslim woman and her family in Ohio.
“Get the hell out of the country you bitch-ass Muslims,” a woman screamed at a Muslim mother and daughter in Maryland. “You’re not even from here, motherfucker! Fuck you and your family, you terrorist fuck!” a man yelled at a Moroccan Uber driver in Que