On Saturday an “improvised explosive device” was detonated in a Minneapolis-area mosque in what Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton denounced as a “dastardly, cowardly” hate crime.
It's just the latest case in an ever-quickening escalation of anti-Islamic incidents at mosques, according to data compiled by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). According to CAIR's figures, in the first half of 2017 there were 85 such incidents. That's more than the total number of incidents in any year between 2009 and 2015. And while 2016's numbers aren't fully compiled yet, the six-month tally for 2017 is already greater than the number of incidents in the first nine months of last year.
The incidents tracked by CAIR this year include 24 cases of property damage and vandalism like the one at the Minnesota mosque. They also include 30 cases of intimidation against mosques or the people who worship in them, and four separate instances of alleged anti-Muslim bias in cases where a proposal to build a mosque was rejected by local authorities.
More broadly, CAIR has found that instances of anti-Muslim bias, whether connected to a mosque or not, are up sharply since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president in June 2015. In 2014, for instance, CAIR documented 1,341 cases of anti-Muslim bias and 38 anti-Muslim hate crimes. By 2016, those numbers had ballooned to 2,213 and 260, respectively.
CAIR's figures comport with available FBI hate crime data, which showed a surge in anti-Muslim crimes in 2015 (2016 data is not yet available).
“When Donald Trump became President of the United States on January 20, 2017, he brought an unprecedented record of conditioning audiences to fear Muslims,” CAIR wrote in a report earlier this year.
Trump had a long record of making inflammatory statements about Muslims and Islam. Early in his campaign he floated the ideas of closing mosques and creating a national database of Muslims. He called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,"said that “Islam” harbors “a tremendous hatred” for the United States, and accused Muslims of wanting “Sharia law.”
CAIR's research suggests that that rhetoric has consequences. Shortly after Trump's election in November, for instance, mosques around the country received letters threatening genocide, with several claiming that Trump will do to Muslims what “Hitler did to the Jews.” Muslim students at New York University found the door to a prayer room vandalized with the word “Trump.”
Trump, who has been quick to respond to attacks by Islamic extremists on Twitter, has so far been circumspect about the mosque attack in Minnesota. The White House told New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush that “the President has been and is continuing to be updated and we are monitoring situation for now.”
Muslims aren't the only group facing heightened discrimination in the Trump era. Jews remain the religious group most likely targeted for hate crimes. After years of decline, anti-Jewish crimes increased by nearly 10 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to the FBI.
The months following the election brought a spate of anti-Semitic incidents and attacks around the country, some referencing Trump directly. In February, Trump responded to a reporter's question about these incidents by boasting about the size of his electoral college victory and pointing out that his daughter Ivanka's family is Jewish.
The FBI's hate crime statistics for 2016, which will give a comprehensive picture of bias incidents in the election year, will be released later in 2017. But that won't answer the question of whether what we're seeing is a temporary spike in bias incidents unleashed by the passions of the election season, or, more disturbingly, a new normal in hate crime.