Muslims in America are more vulnerable to bigotry and Islamophobia as a result of Donald Trump's behavior and actions than they were after the 9/11 attacks, according to a leading Muslim activist.
As the country approaches the anniversary of Mr. Trump's first year in office, Ibrahim Hooper said such was the level of anxiety and apprehension, many Muslims were fearful to public display signs of their faith. A number of Muslim women, for instance, were deciding not to appear in public wearing the veil.
"It's not just American Muslims [who feel anxious]," Mr. Hooper, a founder of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told The Independent. "We have seen white supremacists emboldened under Trump."
Mr. Hooper said many people of color and members of minority communities had been deeply dismayed by a large number of Mr. Trump's actions, including his Muslim travel ban and his administration's crackdown on undocumented migrants.
He said the President's failure to speak out against white supremacism and extremism - as in the aftermath of neo-Nazi-led violence in Charlottesville in August which left one woman dead - had the impact of allowing such views to become mainstream.
Many white supremacists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, praised the way Mr. Trump responded to the violence, claiming that there was blame "on all sides".
"It's worse now than even after 9/11. He has empowered and mainstreamed white supremacy and bigotry," he said. "After 9/11, bigotry was under the rocks and hidden. Now these bigots are out in the open and saying they are proud of their bigotry."
Asked if he believed the alleged increase in Islamophobia was the result of Mr. Trump's presidency, he said: "There is no other explanation."
Mr. Hooper said several episodes of anti-Muslim violence had made international headlines. Among them was an incident in May, when two men were killed and a third badly injured, after they tried to intervene on a train in Portland, Oregon, when a man started screaming anti-Muslim insults at two women. In Quebec City, Canada, six people were killed and 10 others injured after a lone gunman opened fire.
Mr. Hooper's organization said it had been collating details of other alleged hate crimes and incidents of Islamophobia that did not always get widespread media coverage.
Between January and September 2017, the organization recorded 1,656 so-called "bias incidents" and 195 hate crimes. That represented a 9 per cent increase in bias incidents and a 20 per cent rise in hate crimes compared to 2016.
"Based on preliminary estimates, it's fair to say that 2017 is gearing to be the worst year on record for incidents of anti-Muslim bias since we began our current system of documentation," said research and advocacy coordinator Zainab Arain.
"Additionally, this year we've noted a disturbing trend of perpetrators invoking Trump to express racial and religious animosity."
During the 2016 election campaign and after he took office, Mr. Trump frequently talked about Muslims in a way many felt was derogatory. In late 2015, he said he would call for a complete ban on Muslims entering the country.
He did so in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people. The attack was carried out by a married couple, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. Farook was a US-born citizen of Pakistani descent while Malik was a Pakistani-born lawful permanent resident.
A week after Mr. Trump was inaugurated, he signed the first of three executive orders designed to prohibit citizens of half-a-dozen Muslim majority countries from entering the country. While the order was at first blocked by the courts and the White House scrambled to say it was not a ban on Muslims, Mr. Trump's ally Rudy Giuliani said the President wanted a "Muslim ban" and had asked him how to go about enacting one legally.
The ban is currently active while further legal challenges proceed.
Mr. Trump most recently sparked accusations that he was stirring fueling Islamophobia when he retweeted three inflammatory videos originally posted by the right-wing UK group Britain First.
The videos, which the White House admitted it had not sought to verify, depicted purported Muslims assaulting people and, in one video, smashing a statue of the Virgin Mary.
The White House did not immediately respond to inquiries for comment.
Source: The Independent, Edited by website team