The Orange Count Register, July 26, 2016
By DEEPA BHARATH / STAFF WRITER
Complaints involving hate incidents against Muslims in California grew by 58 percent in 2015 compared to the year prior, with Orange County tallying the most complaints in the state, according to a report released Monday by the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
According to the 2016 CAIR California Civil Rights Report, there were 1,556 anti-Muslim incidents statewide in 2015. The highest number, 363, were reported in Orange County, a 68 percent increase increase from the 215 incidents reported in 2014.
The terrorist attacks, especially the Nov. 13 Paris attack that left 130 dead and the Dec. 2 San Bernardino shooting in which 14 people were killed and 22 injured, played a role in the spike in anti-Muslim incidents, particularly in the Los Angeles area, said Hussam Ayloush, CAIR’s executive director.
He also blamed the political rhetoric aimed against Muslims.
“When the average person hears Donald Trump blaming Islam for terrorist attacks or seeking to ban Muslims from America, or a former Speaker of the House (Newt Gingrich) asking to test Muslims to see if they support Sharia Law, this gives the green light to those who are already holding some bigoted views that it’s OK to go public with such views,” Ayloush said.
CAIR, in its report, divided the complaints into four categories: discrimination, harassment or lack of accommodation at the workplace; law enforcement profiling; hate incidents including assaults, hate mail and vandalism; and issues relating to immigrants, from citizenship to asylum.
Ayloush said a majority of such incidents go unreported.
“I know of people who have moved from their apartments because their neighbors were harassing them,” he said. “But they don’t report these incidents because of fear of retaliation, or simply because they come from a culture where they are not used to reporting or filing complaints.”
The report cites several examples of Islamophobic incidents after the San Bernardino attack, including on Dec. 11 when a 23-year-old man threw a Molotov cocktail into a Coachella Valley mosque, causing a fire. Mosque members were inside for Friday prayers at the time.
The fear of being attacked has kept people from coming to mosques, said Feemun Dogar, board president of the Islamic Society of Orange County in Garden Grove, the largest mosque in Southern California.
“We’ve seen a significant drop in the number of people coming to our mosque,” he said. “People are even more concerned with the elections coming up and the possibility of a Trump victory.”
Security is a major concern for the mosque, which also houses a school, Dogar said. The mosque has had to double its security budget to about $40,000 this year, hiring additional security guards during Friday prayers and during the holy month of Ramadan, just to put members and visitors at ease, he said.
CAIR’s report is deeply disturbing, said Rusty Kennedy, executive director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission.
“The spikes in incidents reported after Paris and San Bernardino are consistent with what we saw in Orange County,” he said.
Members of the Commission visited all Orange County mosques after the San Bernardino attacks to show support for local Muslims, Kennedy said.
In addition, the Commission is offering a training session for mosques that want to hold restorative circles – a community process inviting all parties involved in a conflict to dialogue as equals.
Dogar, for one, is open to a dialogue because, he said, hate and ignorance can only be countered with education and awareness.
“So, if Trump or just anyone who fears us wants to visit our mosque and learn the truth about Islam, they are welcome,” he said. “Our doors are always open.”
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