Hate crimes against Muslims in Austin are the highest they’ve been since 2001

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

The amount of hate crimes targeting Muslims is the highest it has been since 9/11, having increased about 33 percent in Austin in the past two years, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

This statistic follows the national trend of a 68.8 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, according to the 2015 FBI crime report.

Anti-Muslim incidents made up 42 percent of all religious hate crimes in Texas in 2015 and about 8 percent of all hate crimes in Texas.

“I have to always be cautious,” public health sophomore Sofie Momin said. “I’m afraid if I say one wrong thing that something might happen. I have to constantly live with that fear.”

Momin, an Ismaili Muslim, said she believes the outcome of the election is one source of hatred toward Muslims.

“When people hear any sort of anti-Muslim rhetoric, they will automatically give in to that,” Momin said. “Even if they know not all Muslims are bad people, it’s harder to believe that if the government is telling you otherwise.”

Only four hate crimes against Muslims have been reported in Travis County in the past two years, according to a report by the Austin Hate Crimes Task Force. Muna Hussaini, a member of the task force and a victim of hate crimes, said countless other incidents have occurred that remain undocumented.

“A lot of minority communities don’t feel comfortable reaching out,” Hussaini said. “It’s just a different type of crime, and people may not understand how to deal with it.”

Darla Gay, senior planner of Travis County district attorney’s office and Austin Hate Crimes Task Force member, said because most hate crimes are not reported, governments lack data to prevent these crimes.

“Knowing where these things are happening would allow us to know what’s going on in our community and to have better responses,” Gay said. “[Minorities] feel like they’re isolated and that there’s no support for them.”

Gay said the number of hate crimes reported may be increasing due to more efficient reporting.

“We should see our numbers go up, because we believe we’re working on it hard enough to see more numbers,” Gay said. 

Although it is difficult to tell whether the increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes is significant, Hussaini said it is common to see a jump in these crimes after major political changes take place.

“I do think it’s increasing, because people are being made afraid, especially with the political climate,” Hussaini said. “Hate crimes rise around a political cycle because of the rhetoric.”

Hussaini said she feels hopeful knowing many different groups have stood in solidarity with Muslims and other minorities in the past year.

“There’s so many instances of people speaking up, and I’ve seen way more togetherness than I’ve ever seen before,” Hussaini said. “We all care about each other and we’re not taking this sitting down.”