New FBI Hate Crimes Report Reveals Massive Increase in Anti-Muslim Violence

Novem­ber 17, 2016
Con­tact: Vivek Trive­di,

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) — a lead­ing nation­al South Asian civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sent­ing the diver­si­ty of our grow­ing com­mu­ni­ties in the Unit­ed States — is pro­found­ly con­cerned by the find­ings of the 2015 Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion’s (FBI) Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics report released this week. The FBI’s analy­sis revealed 5,850 hate crimes were report­ed in 2015, a 7% increase from 2014. Two deeply dis­turb­ing rev­e­la­tions in the report are the 23% increase in reli­gious-based hate crimes and the 67% increase in anti-Mus­lim hate crimes across the coun­try in 2015.

“The 257 anti-Mus­lim crimes report­ed in 2015 are the sec­ond high­est on record in the Unit­ed States, trail­ing only the back­lash after the attacks of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001,” stat­ed Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT. “Hun­dreds of hate vio­lence inci­dents have already been report­ed in only a week after these deeply divi­sive elec­tions. This leads many in our com­mu­ni­ty to believe that the FBI’s sta­tis­tics are only the tip of the ice­berg, with much worse yet to come.”

The FBI’s sober­ing sta­tis­tics may pale in com­par­i­son to real­i­ty, how­ev­er, as under­re­port­ing remains a con­sis­tent issue across the coun­try. The num­ber of law enforce­ment agen­cies that par­tic­i­pat­ed in the 2015 FBI data col­lec­tion effort decreased from 15,494 in 2014 to 14,997 in 2015, and less than 12% of these agen­cies even report­ed one or more hate crimes to the FBI. This means that 88% of par­tic­i­pat­ing police agen­cies report­ed zero hate crimes to the FBI. Bureau of Jus­tice Sta­tis­tics stud­ies have indi­cat­ed that the data report­ed to the FBI may be as low as 35% of actu­al lev­els of hate crime in the country.

“The issue of under­re­port­ing is of crit­i­cal con­cern when attempt­ing to diag­nose the sever­i­ty of vio­lence against our com­mu­ni­ties,” stat­ed Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Direc­tor of Nation­al Pol­i­cy and Advo­ca­cy at SAALT. “South Asians are the most rapid­ly grow­ing demo­graph­ic group in the Unit­ed States, with a pop­u­la­tion of over 4.3 mil­lion. Law enforce­ment agen­cies must par­tic­i­pate active­ly and accu­rate­ly in the report­ing of hate crimes in order to shed light on the full scope of vio­lence fac­ing our grow­ing communities.”

This is one of the many rea­sons SAALT devel­oped an online data­base track­ing inci­dents of hate vio­lence and xeno­pho­bic polit­i­cal rhetoric against our com­mu­ni­ties. Even before the post-elec­tion surge in vio­lence, we tracked over 200 inci­dents from Novem­ber 2015, and we encour­age peo­ple to con­tin­ue to uti­lize this resource to report inci­dents against our communities.

A wel­comed aspect of the FBI’s report was the new addi­tion of cat­e­gories for crimes tar­get­ing Sikhs, Arabs, and Hin­dus, who have his­tor­i­cal­ly been tar­gets of vio­lence due to real or per­ceived reli­gions and appear­ance. SAALT sup­port­ed the tremen­dous advo­ca­cy work of the Sikh com­mu­ni­ty fol­low­ing the 2012 Oak Creek, WI gur­d­wara mas­sacre where a known white suprema­cist killed six Sikh wor­ship­pers. This even­tu­al­ly led to the FBI adding these new cat­e­gories to help dis­ag­gre­gate hate crimes data more accurately.

The alarm­ing data in the FBI’s report and the post-elec­tion surge in vio­lence under­score the cli­mate of hate sur­round­ing our com­mu­ni­ties nation­wide. It is high time our com­mu­ni­ties are pri­or­i­tized, not as tar­gets, but as Amer­i­cans, who deserve all the rights and pro­tec­tions avail­able under the law.