Domestic pro-Muslim groups have expressed fears that Americans are facing an increased risk of attacks due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.
On Saturday, those fears were realized when a 6-year-old was fatally stabbed in Illinois allegedly by a 71-year-old man who singled out the boy and a woman for being Muslim. Authorities said the 32-year-old woman survived the attack. The 6-year-old was laid to rest Monday.
"Detectives were able to determine that both victims in this brutal attack were targeted by the suspect due to them being Muslim and the on-going Middle Eastern conflict involving Hamas and the Israelis," the Will County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.
Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement late Sunday saying it would be investigated as a hate crime.
"This incident cannot help but further raise the fears of Muslim, Arab and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence," Garland said. "The Department of Justice is focused on protecting the safety and the civil rights of every person in this country. We will use every legal authority at our disposal to bring to justice those who perpetrate illegal acts of hate. No one in the United States of America should have to live in fear of violence because of how they worship or where they or their family come from."
Just two days prior to the Illinois attack, the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations reported a "disturbing spike in hate calls/emails, and community concern outreach." The spike came after Hamas launched an attack in Israel on Oct. 7.
CAIR-Chicago expressed frustration that politicians and the media were only offering support for Israel "but have nothing to say about the long-standing Palestinian suffering."
“The equally one-sided statements issued by public officials and the one-sided reporting by the media has of course helped create this lop-sided atmosphere in which members of our community are essentially sitting ducks. This is doubly concerning because we had come to believe that we had learned the hard lessons from the darkest days of flippant Islamophobia in the years after 9/11 where the lack of balanced leadership of our elected leaders, and the irresponsible and biased reporting by the media directly contributed to hanging our communities out to dry,” Ahmed Rehab, CAIR-Chicago executive director said.
According to Federal Bureau of Investigation figures through 2021, the number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes has dropped. In 2021, the FBI investigated 133 anti-Muslim hate crimes, down from 141 the year before and a peak of 426 in 2017.
The same data shows that anti-Muslim hate crimes have never fully subsided after 9/11. In 2000, there were 34 reported incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. In 2021, that number spiked to 566, only to drop to 171 in 2002 and 157 in 2003.
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