Muslim civil rights group blasted President Donald Trump and his administration Monday, saying his words and policies led to a sharp increase in attacks and bias against Muslims in 2017.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said April 23 the number of reported anti-Muslim hate crimes and reported incidents of discrimination, bullying, harassment and other acts of anti-Muslim bias both jumped 15 percent last year.
The group blames the increase on the president, particularly his push to ban immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries. The ban now includes Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with non-Muslim North Korea and some Venezuelan officials. It originally also included Iraq.
The report says "Trump's xenophobic rhetoric emboldened those who sought to express their anti-Muslim bias and provided a veneer of legitimacy to bigotry."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump has said the goal of the ban is to "keep radical Islamic terrorists out."
"We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people," the Republican president added as he signed the order days after his January 2017 inauguration.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday on whether the ban is constitutional.
CAIR said the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported jumped from 260 in 2016 to 300 in 2017 while the incidents of anti-Muslim bias rose from 2,213 to 2,599.
Wilfredo Ruiz, a CAIR spokesman, and CAIR attorney Omar Saleh conceded that some of the increase might be attributable to the Washington-based group getting better at documenting incidents and Muslims being more likely to report abuse. But they said there also has been an increase in attacks on mosques and Islamic centers since Trump began speaking about Muslims during the 2016 campaign. Such incidents have always been recorded, he said.
"Targeting an entire group of people on how they worship God is contrary to our shared American values," Ruiz said. "American Muslims share the same American values and freedoms all cherish and deserve the same opportunities as we are all Americans."
CAIR said many anti-Muslim attackers cite Trump during their assaults. For example, a traveler kicked and cursed a Muslim employee at New York's Kennedy Airport in March 2017. The employee, who was wearing a Muslim head covering, recalled him saying, "Trump is here now. He will get rid of all of you. You can ask Germany, Belgium and France about these kinds of people. You see what happens." The man was apparently referring to terror attacks carried out by Muslim terrorists in those countries.
In another case, a man threw rocks at a Muslim family's home near Chicago, also in March 2017, yelling, "Open the door, I want to kill you." When police asked him why he did it, he told them, "That's what Trump would do."