FBI: Dramatic Spike in Hate Crimes Targeting Muslims

Anti-Muslim hate crimes soared by 50% in 2010, skyrocketing over 2009 levels in a year marked by the incendiary rhetoric of Islam-bashing politicians and activists, especially over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York City.

Although the national statistics compiled by the FBI each year are known to vastly understate the real level of hate crime, they do offer telling indications of some trends. The latest statistics, showing a jump from 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 to 160 in 2010, seem to reflect the consequences of a rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric from groups like Stop Islamization of America. Much of that vitriol was aimed at stopping an Islamic center in lower Manhattan.

It was the highest level of anti-Muslim hate crimes since 2001, the year of the Sept. 11 attacks, when the FBI reported 481 anti-Muslim hate crimes.

The year 2010 saw multiple verbal attacks on planned mosques, along with several violent attacks and arsons and the first attempts to ban Shariah religious law, even though the Constitution already precludes that.

It’s not provable precisely how hateful rhetoric from public figures drives criminal violence. But anecdotal evidence suggests the link it a tight one. Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, anti-Muslim hate violence skyrocketed some 1,600%. But then-President George W. Bush gave several speeches emphasizing that Muslims and Arabs were not our enemies. Almost certainly thanks to that, anti-Muslim violence declined the following year by almost two-thirds.

The 2010 FBI statistics also showed a rise of almost 11% in anti-Latino hate crimes. The increase may be related to the vilification of immigrants surrounding the passage of Arizona’s S.B. 1070. Since then, even more anti-immigrant rhetoric has been heard around the country, suggesting that when the FBI’s 2011 statistics come out next fall, they will show a further increase.