This Week in Hate: Violence Leading to a Coma

On Sunday, a white supremacist open fired at the Poway Synagogue in San Diego killing Lori Kaye and injuring many congregants. The same perpetrator was under investigation for a previous arson attack aimed at the Escondido Mosque, illustrating the connection that a rise in Islamophobia often leads to parallel incidents of anti-Semitism and vice versa.

In the past few months, we have observed a trend in increased vandalism and arson attacks aimed at community centers and places of worship including three Black churches in Louisiana, Highlander Research and Education Center, Hindu temple in Louisville, and the Islamic Society of North County. In April, a white supremacist punched a Hindu priest and called him a “dirty Indian.”

SAALT tracked a significant rise in hate incidents in the month of April with 10 incidents of hate violence and 6 instances of xenophobic political rhetoric. Of the ten incidents, 5 were physical assaults, 3 written/verbal assaults, and 2 property damage.

  • On April 2, 2019, an American Muslim Uber driver was assaulted by a passenger who “threatened to “f*cking destroy him,” opened his car door, spit on him, and punched him. The attacker also twice made an Islamophobic slur, saying, “How many virgins do you get for sucking c***?”
  • On April 4, 2019, Devendra Shukla, a priest at the Hindu Samaj Temple, was physically assaulted in a parking lot by Nicholas Dow in Ramsey, New Jersey. The perpetrator punched him in the face and called him a “dirty Indian.”
  • On April 5, 2019, the Emory University prayer washing station was desecrated with urine
  • On April 10, 2019, a New Jersey high school student physically assaulted a Muslim student by pulling off her hijab and shouting anti-Muslim slurs.
  • On April 10, 2019, the Columbus, Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations received a mailed threat that praised the recent terror attacks on mosques in New Zealand and called for more violence targeting Muslims. In the letter, the writer said the mosque massacres in New Zealand “filled me with great and tremendous joy,” claimed Islam needs to be “eradicated” and “I look forward to more killings of your religion, we need more violence taken to you.” The letter, postmarked in Ohio, ended with “Death to Islam everywhere.” It had no return address.
  • On April 16, 2019, John Kless called the offices of California Rep. Eric Swalwell, Detroit Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. In each of the three voicemail messages, he singled out Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, calling her a “towel head,” according to the Miami New Times. In his call to Tlaib, he threatened to “throw [Omar] right off the Empire State Building.”
  • On April 16, 2019, Joey Derek Christian verbally assaulted an AT&T employee in Friendswood, Texas, yelling ““f**king Arab” and “I been killing their f**king kind for six months, actually two years, six months in the last country I was in…Because people like this are the reason our country is going where it’s going to….Because I’ve been killing his kind for longer than you’ve probably been alive…His kind, I’ve been killing for almost 20 years. I’ve been on five different continents.”
  • On April 16, 2019, a unknown woman called CAIR-LA and said “I’m going to bomb the (expletive) building up.”
  • On April 23, 2019, an unknown man attempted arson at the North Austin Muslim Community in Austin, Texas. This is the third hate incident that has happened in this community.
  • On April 23, 2019, a driver intentionally plowed into eight pedestrians on a busy Sunnyvale, California crosswalk because he thought they were of Muslim faith, leaving a 13-year old girl in a coma.

This level of amplified hate is a direct consequence of divisive rhetoric from political and community leaders and the discriminatory policies advanced by government institutions against our communities.

  • On April 1, 2019, Yucaipa, CA Mayor Bobby Duncan posted xenophobic Facebook posts targeting Muslims and migrants from South America. He posted two memes: 1) “Stop all welfare to illegal aliens and they’ll deport themselves” and 2) “Islamophobic: A bulls — term invented to vilify and silence anyone being honest about mankind’s most violent supremacist culture.”
  • On April 3, 2019, Yucaipa, CA Mayor Bobby Duncan shared another Islamophobic meme that read: “I don’t know about you, but I am 100% anti-Islam and anti-Sharia! Who else is with me and feels the same way?”

For a third month in a row, Representative Ilhan Omar has been the target of virulent verbal and physical threats.

The recent cycle of vitriolic xenophobic, anti-black, and Islamophobic political rhetoric has fueled violence against our community members. Arab, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, South Asian, Sikh, and Middle Eastern communities continue to be targets of horrific incidents due to race and perceived religious identity. Our religious institutions and community spaces continue to be targets of violence for white supremacists who seek to disrupt our safety and challenge our belonging. Before we begin to address solutions to combating hate violence we must heal as a community and protect those most vulnerable. We are here to say that we belong, we demand safety, and we will remain vigilant as a community to hold our government accountable for fanning the flames of hate violence.