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25 Nov, 2015

Unprecedented Backlash Against American Muslims After Paris Attacks

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/24/15) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today released an initial report on the unprecedented backlash and discrimination targeting the nation’s Muslim community since the November 13 terror attacks in Paris. [A more comprehensive report on the backlash is to be issued at a later date.]

CAIR notes that it has received more reports about acts of Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslim) and Islamic institutions in the past week-and-a-half than during any other limited period of time since the 9/11 terror attacks.

CAIR attributes this spike in anti-Muslim incidents to the Paris attacks and to the mainstreaming of Islamophobia by political candidates and lawmakers in the run-up to the 2016 general election. Of particular concern is the extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric and falsehoods being espoused by leading Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Another contributing factor to this marked rise in Islamophobic hostility is state governors and lawmakers playing on public fears and spreading misinformation about the federal government’s ability to screen Syrian refugees being resettled into the United States.

CAIR’s initial report documents acts of Islamophobic discrimination, intimidation, threats, and violence targeting American Muslims and mosques reported to CAIR between the dates of November 13-24.

American Muslim Groups Immediately Condemn the Paris Attacks

* On Friday, November 13, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) condemned the then ongoing terror attacks in Paris that left many people dead and injured.

* On Saturday, November 14, the US Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO), a coalition of leading national and local Muslim organizations, held a news conference in Washington, D.C., condemning the previous day’s terror attacks in Paris.

Intimidation, Threats and Violence Against Places of Worship

* St. Petersburg, FL, 11/14/15 — Martin Alan Schnitzler allegedly left a voicemail threatening the Islamic Center of St. Petersburg, just hours after the Paris terror attacks. Schnitzler said in part: “We are tired of your (expletive) and I (expletive) personally have a militia that is going to come down to your Islamic Society of Pinellas County and firebomb you and shoot whoever is there in the head. I don’t care if they are (expletive) two-years-old or 100.” Schnitzler is reported to have also made calls to the Islamic Society of Pinellas County.

Police have stepped up protection of the mosque and with federal law enforcement authorities investigated the threat. Identifying Schnitzler, he was charged with making a threat to kill over the phone, injure or intimidate using fire or an explosive, and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

* Meriden, CT, 11/14/15 — Multiple shots were fired at the Baitul Aman mosque. The bullets penetrated three interior walls and struck in prayer areas. No one was in the facility at the time of the attack and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Connecticut later discovered the damage Sunday night. Neighbors reported to the police that they heard shots fired early Saturday morning.  Local police report that the investigation has been turned over to the FBI.

* Portland, OR, 11/15/15 — Worshipers at the Portland Rizwan Mosque were met by a handful of sign-holding protesters shouting along the sidewalks outside the facility. One protestor was wearing a black t-shirt that said “Proud Infidel” while others were carrying signs that said “THE WAGES OF SIN & DEATH” and “JESUS SAVES FROM HELL.”

* Pflugerville, TX, 11/16/15 — Vandals targeted the Islamic Center of Pflugerville, covering the door of the mosque in feces and tearing pages of the Quran and throwing them to the ground covered with feces. The Pflugerville Police Department is investigating the incident and 300 community members turned out in a show of solidarity with the mosque.

* Omaha, NE, 11/16/15 — Someone spray-painted graffiti of an Eiffel Tower peace symbol, which is being used online as a sign of solidarity with those impacted by the attacks, on an outside wall of the Islamic Center in Omaha. This is the third time the mosque had been targeted by vandalism in the past four months.

* Fredericksburg, VA, 11/17/15 — A sheriff’s deputy ended a local government meeting discussing a proposed mosque for the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg after members of the audience started making comments such as, “Every Muslim is a terrorist” and “Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult.” The deputy believed the crowd was becoming violent toward the Islamic Center’s representatives.

* Fort Bend, TX, 11/18/15 — Clayton Alexander Cansler was charged with making a terrorist threat by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office in Texas after police in Gloucester County in New Jersey forwarded a tip that he had allegedly posted on Facebook a message that declared, “I’m going to shoot up a mosque. I’m sorry. Doing it for Lisa and everyone I love,” along with photos of a handgun, ammunition and a black military styled knife.

* Falls Church, VA, 11/19/15 — Chester Gore allegedly left a fake explosive device at the Dar al-Hijrah mosque and caused $200 in damage to the mosque’s front gate. Gore has been charged with using a hoax explosive device and entering a property to cause damage based on religious conviction.

* San Antonio, TX, 11/20/15 — Mariano Talavera, while wearing military-styled clothes, carrying an American flag and large backpack, allegedly trespassed at the Islamic Center of San Antonio, cursing worshipers about their religion. Following the incident, a school associated with the mosque cancelled classes for the rest of the week as they review safety measures. Talavera was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing on private property.

* Corpus Christi, TX, 11/20/15 — The Islamic Center of Corpus Christi received a letter mailed from Culver City, Calif., threatening the worshipers to “convert to Christianity now, before it is too late.” The letter was reported to Corpus Christi Police and the San Antonio chapter of CAIR has called for law enforcement to step-up security at the mosque.

* Irving, TX, 11/21/15 — A group of demonstrators calling themselves the Bureau of American Islamic Relations (BAIR) held an armed anti-Islam demonstration outside the Islamic Center of Irving. One of the demonstrators’ signs read, “Stop the Islamization of America.” This may be a reference to the campaign of the same name launched by inner core staple Pamela Geller. Responding to a reporter’s question, a spokesperson for BAIR said, “We do want to show force. . .It would be ridiculous to protest Islam without defending ourselves.”

* Lubbock, TX, 11/24/15 — An official with the Islamic Center of South Plains in Lubbock reported to the Houston chapter of CAIR that worshipers at a mosque associated with the center discovered outside lights broken and the mosque’s main glass door smashed when they arrived for early morning (fajr) prayers. Nothing was stolen from the facility.

Violence Against Individuals

* Orlando, FL, 11/15/15 — Shots were fired into the home of Amir and Nehal Elmasri. The couple was out feeding the homeless when a shot was fired through their garage door, the bullet stopping in the dresser of their master bedroom. Other bullets were fired into the home but no one was injured. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has opened an ongoing investigation.

* Denver, CO — The weekend following the Paris attacks, the front window was broken at a Denver-area spirituality bookstore called Isis Books and Gifts. It was the fifth time it had been vandalized in the past year. The store is named after the mythological Egyptian goddess Isis.

* Cincinnati, OH, 11/15/15 — A young woman wearing an Islamic headscarf (hijab) was insulted and assaulted in a grocery store parking. An older man and woman called her names as she was checking out at the store. They then followed her to her car and once she got to her vehicle the man pulled on her hijab to get her to turn around at which time they continued to verbally accost her. She was able to get into her car and leave. This incident has been reported to Cincinnati Police.

* Cincinnati, OH, 11/16/15 — A University of Cincinnati pre-med student wearing an Islamic head scarf reported that she was called a “terrorist” and almost run over by an angry driver in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati. She said three people pulled her to the sidewalk before the car could hit her.

* Charlotte, NC, 11/16/15 — Samson Woldemichael, an Ethiopian American Christian Uber driver was allegedly attacked by his passenger and threatened to be shot because the assailant mistook the driver for being Muslim. The passenger hit Woldemichael while he drove and motioned that he had a gun on his person.  Police are using the passenger’s Uber account information to track the assailant down.

* San Diego, CA, 11/18/15 — A visibly pregnant Muslim women was allegedly assaulted in San Diego. The woman was wearing an Islamic headscarf and was with her other child in a stroller when the alleged perpetrator shoved the stroller her child was in causing it to strike her pregnant abdomen. The incident was allegedly caught on video camera, footage is believed to be in the possession of the San Diego Police Department.

* San Diego, CA, 11/19/15 — A Muslim student at San Diego State University reported to campus police that she was attacked by a male who pulled off her Islamic headscarf and made hate statements.

Threats Against Individuals

* Storrs, CT, 11/15/15 — University of Connecticut student Mahmoud Hashem discovered his dorm’s name tag was vandalized with the words “Killed Paris” underneath his name. Campus police were notified of the incident and the university issued a statement that it “is working to provide support to the student and impacted community.

* Austin, TX, 11/19/15 — American Muslim Theresa Church reportedly found a hate message placed on her car stating “Go away,” after returning from the gym. In response to the incident, Church said: “And I just felt like, you know, where am I supposed to go? This is, you know, where I was born, this is where I’ve always been, this is where my family is.”

* Brooklyn, NY, 11/20/15 — The two women (who are sisters) and an infant were allegedly approached in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, by a postal worker who shouted obscenities and reportedly said, “I am going to burn your ‘f**king’ temple.” He allegedly elbowed one of the women and spat in her face while she was waiting to cross the street. The man followed her across the street and called the other Muslim woman a “n**ger” and said, “I am not crazy, I am a postal worker.” The alleged attacker was later arrested.

Threats Against Groups of Muslims

* Dearborn, MI, 11/14/15 — Sarah Beebe allegedly Tweeted from her account: “Dearborn, MI has the highest Muslim population in the United States. Let’s f— that place up and send a message to ISIS. We’re coming.” The Tweet promoted an investigation from the City of Dearborn Police. Following public outcry, Beebe took down the account and issued an apology.

* Norman, OK, 11/16/15 — Mark James Riedel allegedly called 911 telling dispatch that he was dealing with mental illness and was “going to go out there and just start shooting anything that looks like a Muslim after what they did to France” and “I’m just going to start shooting at cars.”

Using caller identification, Norman police officers were dispatched to investigate the source of the call. Upon arrival, Riedel pointed a gun at the officers while making statements about wanting the police to shoot him. Refusing to put his gun down, Riedel was shot and officers immediately provided medical assistance until EMS arrived and transferred him to a local hospital. Riedel’s gun was later found to be loaded.

Profiling of Airline Passengers

* Baltimore, MD, 11/18/15 — A Spirit Airlines Flight 969 was preparing for takeoff from Baltimore when a passenger alerted a flight attendant of “suspicious activity” on board the plane. The suspicious activity she referred to was a man who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent watching a news clip on his mobile phone. The four passengers were asked to exit the plane at the flight captain’s request before the flight resumed to Chicago. None of them were charged with any crime.

* Philadelphia, PA, 11/19/15 — Two Palestinian-Americans flying Southwest Airlines were told to step aside while boarding and their flight was delayed because a fellow passenger said he was afraid to fly with them after hearing them speak Arabic. One of the Palestinian-Americans called 911 to report that they were being racially profiled. After questioning, the men were allowed to return to their flight.