Anti-Muslim sentiment in US so high DOJ launches campaign against it

© Mike Blake
Concerned with increased anti-Muslim threats and backlash in the wake of terror attacks in Europe and San Bernardino, California, numerous attorneys from the US Justice Department are launching a campaign to combat discrimination.

US attorneys from 11 states will meet with local officials, community leaders, and law enforcement between April 12 and May 6 in order discuss the potential threats against Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian Americans. The goal is “to address discrimination, violence and harassment targeting people because of what they look like, which country they come from or where they worship,” the Justice Department said.

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The states involved are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio and Utah.

“The Department of Justice is determined to uphold the fundamental principle that all Americans should be free from violence and protected from hatred no matter who they are, what they look like, or where they're from,” said Federal Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch in a statement.

Over the past few months, the Justice Department said, a man in Connecticut pleaded guilty to shooting a rifle at a mosque, a Florida mean pleaded guilty to threatening to firebomb to mosques and also shoot those worshipping inside, and a New York man was sentenced to over a year in jail for sending death threats to the leader of an Islamic advocacy group.

“These events underscore our ongoing commitment to safeguard the civil rights of every American – including Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian Americans, who are so often the targets of threats on the basis of their appearance or religion,” Lynch added.

Since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Justice Department said it has investigated more than 1,000 cases featuring violence, threats, assaults, arsons and vandalisms targeting Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian people. Prosecutions have been brought against 60 people in these cases, with 57 leading to convictions.

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), there was a record 63 cases of vandalism and harassment against mosques and Muslims in 2015 alone, it said in December. Following the November attacks in Paris, CAIR said 17 anti-mosque incidents occurred in that month alone. The previous high was 53 incidents in 2010, CAIR stated.

“There is no place for intolerance in our country,” Lynch said in her statement. “In the weeks and months ahead, the Department of Justice will continue to work with local law enforcement partners and community leaders to defend the safety and the dignity of all our people.”

Concern over anti-Muslim sentiment has also played out outside of the courtroom. During last year’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a Florida gun shop offered shoppers a coupon code featuring the word “Muslim,” with the store owner arguing that “Islam is evil at its core.” The move was denounced by Muslim groups.

In one Virginia county last year, all public schools were closed after parents complained about a homework assignment their children received during a world religions portion of a geography class. In the assignment, the children were told to practice writing calligraphy and the Muslim statement of faith, with translates to: “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.”