Hate crimes against Muslims rose by 67 percent last year, says FBI

Hate crimes reported to police rose by nearly 7 percent last year, driven largely by a surge in crimes against Muslims, according to an FBI report released Monday.

Chris Keane/Reuters
Students with lit candles attend a vigil on the campus of the University of North Carolina, for Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad and Yusor's sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha who were killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in February 2015.

Americans reported 67 percent more hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 than in the year before, making the increase in anti-Muslim incidents the largest since the surge that followed the 9/11 attacks in 2001, according to an FBI report published Monday.

There were 257 hate crimes committed against Muslims in 2015, compared to 184 incidents in 2014, the report found. Overall, there was a 6.7 percent increase in all hate crimes, including crimes based on religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability, for a total of 5,850 incidents in 2015. Religion-based hate crimes increased by 23 percent, with Jews and Jewish institutions experiencing a 9 percent increase and remaining the most frequent targets of religiously-motivated attacks. 

While it is possible that the uptick in anti-Muslim incidents could be due in some part to increased reporting by victims and better reporting and tracking by law enforcement agencies, some experts believe the surge was brought on by a string of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, as well as the rhetoric of now-President-elect Donald Trump, who during his campaign called for a ban on immigration by foreign Muslims and a national registry of Muslims in the United States. 

"We’re seeing these stereotypes and derogative statements become part of the political discourse," Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, told The New York Times in September. "The bottom line is we’re talking about a significant increase in these types of hate crimes." 

There was a significant increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes later in the year, in the weeks following the deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, Calif., Mr. Levin reported at the time. 

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told NBC News that the backlash toward Muslims reminded him of the days following Sept. 11, 2001. 

"Somebody on our Facebook site likened what's happening to lava building in a volcano and finally erupting," Mr. Hooper said. "This toxic atmosphere has been building for years. The Paris attacks, the San Bernardino attacks and Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric has caused it to erupt." 

The FBI report included information from 14,997 law enforcement agencies, down from the 15,494 agencies that participated the year before. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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