Hate crimes in 2021 are on pace to surpass even the spike in 2020 in the United States — and many of them are linked to religious bigotry, Axios reported on Tuesday.
The number of hate crimes reported in 2020 was the highest since 2001, when the U.S. experienced a surge of Islamophobia after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to updated FBI statistics released yesterday.
Houses of worship of various faiths are also suffering from high amounts of vandalism, arson, and other property damage: There have been 100 acts of hate recorded against Catholic sites in the U.S. since May of 2020, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said last week.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before Congress on Monday that the Justice Department has charged at least 17 people with federal hate crimes and added that the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is also expediting its review of federal hate crimes, Axios reported.
Many incidents have apparently been influenced by news and political events worldwide.
Brian Levin, who directs the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, told Axios, that New York City experienced almost as many anti-Semitic hate crimes during a three-week period in May as in the entire first quarter of the year, coinciding with heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.
In addition, historically African-American churches suffered property damage in retaliation for Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and a Buddhist temple in Los Angeles was set ablaze due to anti-Asian hate.
Also in Canada, there were a dozen arson attacks on churches in the aftermath of the discovery of mass graves near Catholic-run residential schools that had housed indigenous children.
Sim J. Singh Attariwala, the senior policy and advocacy manager at The Sikh Coalition, said the anti-Asian hate crimes law that President Joe Biden signed earlier this year is a good beginning to combatting hate crimes, but that the coalition wants "local and state and federal officials to use their convening power to organize community forums and create task forces that prevent hate violence."
When asked about the reason for the rise in hate crimes, Levin explained to Axios that "the communal institutions, which hold us together traditionally — academia, arms of government, the media, the medical establishment, and now, religious institutions — are held in low esteem relative to decades prior."
This means, Levin said, that "when there are disputes or questions about authority, and particularly when you have these new conspiracy theories that come up like QAnon, there's always a place for someone of faith to be scapegoated," adding that this situation makes us "extremely concerned."
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