Hate crimes are on the rise in US


HATE crimes are on a steady rise in US as the wave of racist violence consumes migrants indiscriminately, with Muslims falling victims as well as migrants or locally-born minorities. Europe too is witnessing violence directed against nonwhites as last year’s Brexit vote in the UK and Donald Trump’s triumph in the US presidential election have galvanized right-wing populists in the continent. But there is a crucial difference. Only in the US we find the head of the administration sometimes making common cause with people and groups who make no secret of their hostility to people who are different on account of their religion, race, ethnicity or ancestry.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 6,121 hate crimes reported in 2016 — an increase from the around 5,800 incidents reported in 2015. Of those, about 58 percent were motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry bias, while 21 percent were motivated by religious hatred. According to the FBI, anti-Muslim crimes in the United States rose 67 percent between 2014 and 2015. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that 917 hate groups are actively operating in America.

The murder of two Americans in July for aiding two young women who were facing a barrage of anti-Muslim slurs on a Portland train is among the latest examples of brazen acts of anti-Islamic hatred. Hijab- or abaya- wearing Muslim women are a special target. Terror attacks, real or imagined, also lead to sharp increases in anti-Muslim violence, even if the perpetrators are non-Muslim and even if the attack takes place in other countries. In 2015, for example, there were 45 incidents of anti-Muslim crime in the four weeks following the Nov. 13 Paris terror attack. Just under half of these occurred after Dec. 2, the reason being the San Bernardino terror attack. Of those, 15 took place in the five days following then-candidate Donald Trump’s proposal of Dec. 7, seeking to indefinitely ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

According to the FBI’s data, hate crimes against Muslims reported to police surged immediately following the terror attacks of 9/11. In 2015, there were 257 hate crimes against Muslims — the highest level since 2001 and a surge of 67 percent over the previous year.

If the incitement 16 years ago was Sept. 11 attacks, today it is Donald Trump, says writer and journalist Amitava Kumar. What he left unsaid is today’s incitement affects other minority groups like Hindus and Sikhs too.

One of the first hate crimes to take place in the days following 9/11 was the murder of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas-station owner in Mesa, Arizona. Many believe he was mistaken for a Muslim. Other Sikhs too were attacked, though some in the community went out of their way to declare they have nothing to do with Islam.

But things have changed after Trump came to power. Ever since a Kansas man, 51-year-old Adam Purinton, opened fire at a bar in Olathe, killing 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla and injuring his colleague, 32-year-old Alok Madasani in February this year, Hindus too have been living in fear.

In March 2017, two more Hindus fell prey to racially-motivated crimes, as reported by Indian daily Hindustan Times.

As things stand now, minorities may feel

there is no point in approaching the administration. This is wrong. The federal government has a hate crime law that bans crimes based on race, color and religion.

Some states, such as South Carolina, still don’t have such laws. There should be a campaign for introducing hate crime laws in all states. Equally important is the need to strengthen existing laws.

Minorities can lobby leaders, pursue

politicians, business and community leaders to stand up against hate. They can enlist the support of the media in a campaign against intolerance and xenophobia.