Ever since the rise of terrorism and fundamentalist Muslim groups between the late 90s and 2010, the rate of anti-Muslim hate crimes has escalated rapidly. According to the FBI, after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, orchestrated by the terrorist group Al-Qaeda, the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes spiked to 481, the highest it has been since 2000.
By 2008, the fear of Muslims faded somewhat, lowering the number of hate-crimes to 105. However, this downward trend did not continue for very long. As a new terror threat, ISIS, reared its head in Syria in the early 2010’s, the amount of hate crimes against Muslims again has begun to climb steadily higher. Several large scale terrorist strikes by ISIS, such as the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Paris Attacks, and the San Bernardino Massacre, inflated the amount of hate crimes further. ISIS’s tactic of recruiting jihadists and spreading fear via social media was remarkably effective. In addition, no aid that the West could provide in Syria seemed enough to stop them, sewing frustration throughout the country. All these factors led to 2015, a year in which the number of hate-crimes against Muslims was 257, a startling increase from the amount in 2008.
In Kernersville, North Carolina, the newspaper Triad City Beat recently posted an audio clip from a meeting of a local conservative group on the week of February 13th to discuss the Muslim Brotherhood. In the audio, referring to a supposed “islamification” of the United States, a group-member asks the main speaker for “Any recommendations on how we can stop this? Because my only recommendation is to start killing the hell out of them.” Another man interrupted the main speaker at the event to say he was ready to “start killing people and taking them out.” These shocking statements, made in response to a conversation about a group of Muslims one speaker alleges is attempting to take over the United States, has raised concerns of potential future violence and prompted the Council on American-Islamic Relations to request that State and Federal Authorities investigate the incident.
While Chapel Hill is a relatively tranquil town, it faces many of the problems that afflict countless other cities throughout the nation. One of these issues is the crisis of racial hate crimes, a controversial topic that has graced the news for months on end. Although Chapel Hill in recent times has not been rocked by any major events such as false ICE checks in New York, or the arbitrary murder of an innocent Indian man in Kansas, the city has had its own problems with hate crimes in the past. In February of 2015, three Muslim students at UNC were shot and killed by their neighbour, Craig Hicks. At the time of the crime is was stated that the event was caused by a parking dispute, but as the case progressed, it became apparent that Hicks had a history of prejudice against Muslims. The shooting was eventually labelled as a hate crime.
Hate crimes may be few and far apart in comparison to the abundance of other crimes that occur throughout the United States every day, but every time a racially charged misdeed is committed, the nation is shaken to the roots. These crimes are often triggered by underlying stereotypes and biases among various racial groups, habits that are wired into our very own human nature. In other words, the original beliefs that lead to hate crimes exist in all of us. It is something that we cannot change. However, we can work together to rise above the bounds of discrimination and our base human instincts.