Over the past week, several mosques in California, Rhode Island, South Florida and Georgia have received a hateful letter praising President-elect Donald Trump and urging an ethnic cleanse of Muslims in the United States.
“There’s a new sheriff in town—President Donald Trump,” the letter reads in part. “He’s going to do with you Muslims what Hitler did to the Jews.” It ends with the words, “Long live President Trump and God Bless the USA.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said Tuesday that it has “some very good leads” on the location of the person who sent the letters. “This isn’t appropriate,” Deputy Chief Michael Downing told the Huffington Post. “We don’t tolerate it.”
But Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, told The Root that anti-Muslim hate has spiked since the election of Trump.
“The election has empowered not only Islamophobes but bigots of all stripes,” Hooper says. “We’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of hate incidents targeting Muslims, blacks, women—you name it—across the spectrum.”
Last December, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States. Then, in July, he said that he instead wanted to stop immigration from “any nation that has been compromised by terrorism,” telling NBC’s Meet the Press that it was an expansion of his original proposal. Trump makes a similar point on his campaign website, vowing to suspend “on a temporary basis” immigration from “some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism.” But the president-elect doesn’t use the word “Muslim” here; nor did he in his Nov. 21 update of his policy plan for his first 100 days in office, in which he said that he would direct the Department of Labor to “investigate all abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker.”
But CAIR’s Hooper isn’t sure this means that Trump has backed off his call for a complete ban on Muslim immigration.
“It depends on who talked to him last. The thing we are concerned about is that whatever he says, he has surrounded himself now with hard-core Islamophobes,” Hooper says.
Hooper points to Trump’s choice of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser, a man who has described Islam as a “cancer” and has said that he is “at war with Islam, or a component of Islam.” Flynn is an adviser to the board of directors of Act for America, which calls itself the National Rifle Association of national security. But the Southern Poverty Law Center describes Act for America as the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the nation.
Hooper and other Muslim advocates have also expressed concern over Trump’s choice of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) as CIA director, because of his false comments that Muslims don’t speak out against terrorism, and of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)—who supported Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country—as U.S. attorney general.
“Whatever the president-elect is saying or not saying, what he is doing is very disturbing,” Hooper says, adding that he and other Muslim advocates are very concerned about the future, particularly for young people. “Consider growing up in your formative years in a society where your faith is vilified on a daily basis.”
But many Muslims are worried about a larger backlash in the wake of Monday’s attack at Ohio State University, where Somali-born student Abdul Razak Ali Artan injured 11 people during a knife attack before being killed by police. ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, claimed responsibility, but so far officials haven’t found any evidence that the terror group did anything more than inspire the attack. Artan did reportedly complain on Facebook about being “sick and tired” of seeing Muslims mistreated.
On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that Artan "should not have been in our country." The Root reached out to his transition team for clarification of his policy on Muslim immigration but did not get a response. CAIR’s Hooper says that no matter what Trump’s policy plans are, advocacy groups will be ready to respond.
“If they do indeed seek to erode civil liberties, all you can do is use the legal system and the court of public opinion to try and block it,” Hooper says. “If that fails, what has any society done where civil rights aren’t protected? Do what you can and coalition with like-minded groups.”
Allison Keyes is an award-winning correspondent, host and author. She can be heard on CBS Radio News, among other outlets. Keyes, a former national desk reporter for NPR, has written extensively on race, culture, politics and the arts. Follow her on Twitter.