Local cops and federal agents opened a hate crimes investigation in southern California over the weekend after a raft of crimes like arson and vandalism targeting Muslims, as the New York Times reported. The most recent incidents were both in Hawthorne, a city in southwest Los Angeles county, where "Jesus is the Way" was found spray-painted at an Islamic Center Sunday morning and a fake grenade recovered from the grounds of a nearby mosque.
On Friday, a 23-year-old man was arrested for allegedly lighting fire to a mosque in Coachella earlier that day, just before an afternoon prayer service. Carl James Dial, Jr., is still in custody. Two days prior, Sikhs—often mistaken for being affiliated with Islam—in Buena Park reported their temple being tagged with racial slurs.
The crimes all occurred within 75 miles [120 kilometres] of San Bernardino, where a married couple of Islamic extremists killed 14 and wounded 22* on December 2, and the Times reported that hours after that attack, the top Google search in California was "kill Muslims."
However, it's clear that the problem is isn't confined to the environs of San Bernardino.
On December 8, a man in New York City went on a tirade against restaurant workers near Times Square and attacked one of them. He was subsequently charged with a hate crime. And last week, a Somali cafe in Grand Forks, North Dakota, was spray-painted with a Nazi logo and then firebombed, in what may have been two separate incidents. Activists and experts say that anti-Muslim antipathy is being stirred up, in part, because of the throwback demagoguery central to the political platforms of seemingly viable Republican presidential contenders Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
"Right after 9/11, anti-Muslim hate was on the fringes of society, and now it has been brought right into the mainstream," Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Times. "It's almost acceptable now to hate Islam and Muslims, and now we see the results.
Less than a week after 9/11, George W. Bush famously declared that "Islam is Peace," comments a Guardian columnist recently went so far as to call progressive. Meanwhile, critics argue President Barack Obama hasn't condemned radical Islam aggressively enough, failing to grasp the extent of the danger posed by terrorist groups like ISIS.
But Muslim-American advocates think a fresh, tangible show of support for mainstream adherents could come in handy right now.
"[Obama] should go to a mosque," argues Linda Sarsour, a prominent activist and executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. "He hasn't since he's been in office. But still, the people who are engaging in this hateful rhetoric and violent attacks against Muslims and institutions are not exactly of his political persuasion."
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*Correction 12/14: An earlier version of this story said 21 were injured in San Bernardino, but the latest tally is 22.