American Muslims: Hate Crimes More Prevalent than FBI Data Show
SEATTLE — Reports of hate crimes rose across the nation in 2017, and grew at an even faster pace in Washington state.
Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show the number of hate crime incidents rose by 17 percent nationally over 2016 numbers, and by 32 percent in the Evergreen State - the second-highest increase in the nation.
But Masih Fouladi, head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Washington state chapter, said many more incidents weren't collected in this data. He said communities of color often don't feel comfortable reporting these crimes to law enforcement, and CAIR has compiled numbers much higher than the FBI's.
"Even the data that we get is just a small fraction of what community members are reporting," Fouladi said. “Because it's a very personal issue, oftentimes community members don't know their rights; they don't know that these kind of hate crimes can be pursued legally, and they just want to go about their daily lives."
The report comes just a few weeks after a gunman killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue and a black couple was killed in Kentucky, both allegedly hate-motivated crimes. Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said the FBI report is a call to action, and his agency will heed the call.
Fouladi said he believes the Trump administration's rhetoric toward American Muslims and other people of color is one factor driving the uptick in hate crime incidents. He said Muslims in Washington state have been intimidated and even physically assaulted, making some feel unsafe in public.
"People shouting at them, yelling at them, pulling at their hijab," he said. "We've seen mosques within the state of Washington be vandalized. We've seen some people's homes be vandalized."
Fouladi said CAIR offers “know your rights training” for community members as well as legal services, and will even report hate crimes to law enforcement on a person's behalf. His chapter also offers bystander intervention training for people who witness harassment.
"How can others around them - on a bus, for example, or at a grocery store - get them out of that situation as soon as possible, so that things do not escalate?” Fouladi explained. “And those bystander trainings have been very, very popular."
More information is available at cairWA.org.