As Muslim harassment rises, so do calls for tolerance

Advocacy groups are voicing concern that events like the terrorist attacks in Paris, and the more recent mass shootings in San Bernardino, are contributing to a rise in harassment and violence towards Muslims.

Jae C. Hong/AP
A group of Muslim women listen during an interfaith memorial service at the Islamic Community Center of Redlands, Sunday, in Loma Linda, Calif. The memorial service was held to honor the victims of Wednesday's shooting rampage that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif.

Advocacy groups are voicing concern that events like the terrorist attacks in Paris, and the more recent mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., are contributing to a rise in harassment and violence towards Muslims.

They also say that Donald Trump’s recent remarks, where he has implied support for a national database of Muslims, and indicated that he would be interested in a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, have given rise to a culture of fear that could lead to more incidents of intimidation and violence towards the American Muslim community.

Ibrahim Hooper, lead spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Associated Press on Wednesday that he had "never seen such fear and apprehension in the Muslim community, even after 9/11."

The anti-Islamic backlash in the United States has prompted calls of compassion and tolerance from the president, law enforcement officials, and members of the Muslim community.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg responded to the recent uptick in anti-Islamic rhetoric with a message that Muslims are welcome on Facebook. 

"After the Paris attacks and hate this week, I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others," Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a post on his Facebook page. "As a Jew, my parents taught me that we must stand up against attacks on all communities. Even if an attack isn't against you today, in time attacks on freedom for anyone will hurt everyone."

Some US Muslims have felt compelled to take steps to show that they do not support the actions of Islamist extremists. A Muslims United for San Bernardino campaign has raised more than $175,000 for the victims of the mass shooting on Dec. 2 believed to have been inspired by the same Islamic State militant group. One Muslim scholar told The Christian Science Monitor shortly after the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 that she felt compelled to express her distaste for violence in the name of Islam.

“I go to the grocery store after these attacks and I want people to know that this is not something that’s part of my faith at all,” Celene Lizzio, a Muslim scholar and educator and member of the chaplaincy team at Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., told the Monitor's Jessica Mendoza. “I want to wear a T-shirt that says, ‘Not in my name.’ ”

In New York, city officials reached out to the Muslim community shortly after the Paris attacks to offer assurances that harassment of Muslims will be met with swift justice.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has also noted a concerning rise in the number of threats, attacks, and hate crimes directed against the American Muslim population.

“Unfortunately, incidents targeting the Muslim community tend to spike following highly publicized terrorist attacks, as we witnessed after 9/11. It is another reminder that we must do more to speak out against, and work to prevent and educate against, the scapegoating of minorities in America,” Marvin D. Nathan, ADL's national chair, and Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL's chief executive officer, said in a statement.

On the 150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, President Obama gave a speech advocating that greater compassion and understanding among our collective faith differences may help heal national wounds.

We should come together as a nation, he said, “to remember that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of others, regardless of what they look like, or where they come from, or what their last name is or what faith they practice.”

After the San Bernardino attacks, hundreds of Muslim-Americans responded by creating an online donation page for families of the victims.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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