Hartford (US): Muslims around the US are facing backlash following the deadly attacks in Paris, including vandalism to mosques and Islamic centres, hate- filled phone and online messages and threats of violence. Advocacy leaders say they have come to expect some anti-Muslim sentiment following such attacks, but they now see a spike that seems notable, stirred by anti-Muslim sentiment in the media.
“The picture is getting increasingly bleak,” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Washington, DC-based Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There’s been an accumulation of anti-Islamic rhetoric in our lives and that I think has trigged these overt acts of violence and vandalism.”
He said the rise in the level of anti-Muslim sentiment is reflected by some GOP presidential candidates, governors and others speaking out in opposition to the US accepting more Syrian refugees. Hooper said the council is seeing an increase in anti-Muslim incidents since Friday’s attacks in Paris that killed 129 people and wounded more than 350. In Connecticut, the FBI and local police are investigating reports of multiple gunshots fired at the Baitul Aman mosque in Meriden hours after the attacks.
Leaders of the mosque don’t know the motive of the shooter or shooters, said Salaam Bhatti, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in New York, to which the mosque belongs. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a movement within Islam.
Bhatti said the shooting has not rattled mosque members. He said many are from Pakistan, where conditions for the Ahmadiyya movement are much worse. “It’s a teachable moment,” Bhatti said. “As we do raise awareness of attacks in mosques, we will see mosques do not respond in violence. Islam teaches us to teach peace.”
At the University of Connecticut, authorities are investigating after the words “killed Paris” were discovered on Saturday written beneath an Egyptian student’s name on his dorm room door.
Muslim leaders also have reported recent vandalism, threats and other hate crimes targeting mosques in Nebraska, Florida, Texas, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, New York and other states. After the Paris attacks, the Omaha Islamic Centre in Nebraska reported that someone spray-painted a rough outline of the Eiffel Tower on an outside wall.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called for the FBI and local police to investigate the incident as a possible hate crime, and they’re doing just that, according to Nasir Husain, general secretary of the centre. Muslims in the central US city are afraid, he said.