"I think that this incident should be viewed as a warning that should be heeded," said Edina Lekovic, communications director for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "The hateful rhetoric that is being spewed by people like Newt Gingrich and then being amplified by mainstream media outlets poses a grave danger to the safety and well-being of everyday Muslim Americans like this cab driver, an innocent person."
The Cordoba House project -- the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" -- has had a "ripple effect" that had an immense impact across the country, Lekovic said. All Muslims and Islam are now being painted as the problem, and the "gap between hate speech and violence is shrinking rapidly," she added.
Lekovic said she did not believe this incident was part of any sort of pattern of violence against Muslims, but called the assault on the cab driver a defining moment.
"This is ultimately the tragic result of fear-mongerers stirring up hate," Lekovic said. She cited Gingrich, blogger Pamela Geller as the "tip of the iceberg" of voices on the right who were failing to distinguish between al-Qaeda and Muslims.
"If there's blood on anyone's hands, I think part of that blood goes on Fox News' hands, and, you know, the kind of round-the-clock news cycle that is just amplifying the hysteria rather than having an intelligent conversation about matters where, you know, people have differences of opinion," Lekovic said. A Fox News spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
MPAC has received an increased number of concerns from Muslims around the country and is "working around the clock" with those communities concerned about the safety of their congregations. They are telling local communities to contact their authorities to ask for protection, especially as Muslims prepare to celebrate Eid, the holiday marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.