The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual intelligence report found 2016 was a “banner year for hate” that saw a staggering 197 percent increase in the number of anti-Muslim hate groups in the United States.
The SPLC said this dramatic rise could be attributed in large part to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and blistering rhetoric about Islamic terrorism.
In a Wednesday briefing call with reporters, SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok called Trump “the most important factor” behind the staggering increase in anti-Muslim hate groups. The group tracked 34 of those groups in 2015, compared to 101 in 2016.
The President’s executive order temporarily barring immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries, suggestion that American Muslims decline to tell law enforcement about terrorist attacks being planned in their communities, and pledges to surveil mosques and Muslim neighborhoods played into this “vilification” of Muslims, Potok said.
Trump has argued that the travel restrictions are not a “Muslim ban” and that his approach is about being “tough and vigilant” about the threat of terrorist attacks. Asked Wednesday about the rise in anti-Semitic, xenophobic and racist incidents after his election, the President said his administration would do its best “to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that’s going on.”
“I think a lot of good things are happening and you’re going to see a lot of love,” Trump said. “You’re going to see a lot of love. OK?”
Potok also cited the refugee crisis caused by the ongoing Syrian civil war, a “growing circle of very well-funded anti-Muslim propagandists” and attacks by individuals claiming allegiance to the Islamic State in cities like Orlando, Florida as factors that contributed to the sharp spike in anti-Muslim hate groups.
Potok pointed to the FBI’s most recent hate crimes report, which found a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents in 2015, to corroborate his claims.
The proliferation of anti-Muslim hate groups and rise in anti-Muslim hate incidents documented by the SPLC ran wasn’t matched by other hate and extremist groups, however.
Despite the sharp spike in hate crimes immediately after Election Day, the SPLC found that the white nationalist organizations that glommed onto Trump’s campaign primarily interacted online, while the anti-government “patriot” groups animated by Barack Obama’s presidency stood down in response to a candidate who they believed was sympathetic to their views.
“There hardly seemed a reason to organize their own rallies when extremists could attend a Trump event filled with just as much anti-establishment vitriol as any extremist rally,” the report reads.
The overall level of hate groups remained relatively stable, according to the report, though close to 2011’s record tally of 1,018. Over the past year, the total number of hate groups tracked by the SPLC grew from 892 to 917.