Only hours after news broke that a suspect in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., had a Muslim name, the well-practiced organizations that represent American Muslims to the broader public kicked into action, as they routinely do after each terrorist attack attributed to Muslim extremists.They issued news releases condemning the attacks as inhuman and un-Islamic, posted expressions of grief on Facebook and held news conferences in which Muslim leaders stood flanked by American flags alongside clergy of other faiths and law enforcement officials.“Groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda,” Salam al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said at a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, “are trying to divide our society and to terrorize us. Our message to them is we will not be terrorized and we will not be intimidated,” either by the terrorists or, he said, “by hatemongers who exploit the fear and hysteria that results from incidents like this.”
But the message is apparently not getting through. Muslims and leaders of mosques across the United States say they are experiencing a wave of death threats, assaults and vandalism unlike anything they have experienced since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.They say that they observed an escalation in hateful episodes this fall after anti-Muslim remarks by the Republican presidential candidates Donald J. Trump and Ben Carson. The threats, vandalism and violence grew more frequent and frightening after the attacks by Islamic State militants last month in Paris.Now, with the F.B.I. saying that one of those responsible for the San Bernardino massacre had expressed Islamic State sympathies on Facebook, American Muslims are bracing for more hate directed their way. Overnight on Friday, vandals broke all the windows at the Islamic Center of Palm Beach in Florida, turned over furniture in the prayer room and left bloody stains throughout the facility. The F.B.I. is investigating death threats left by voice mail at a mosque in Manassas, Va.
“My identity and everything that I am becomes erased every time one of these incidents occurs,” said Nabihah Maqbool, 27, a law student at the University of Chicago. “It all becomes collapsed into these senseless acts of violence being committed by people who are part of my group.”Like many other Muslim American women, Ms. Maqbool said that she had considered taking off her hijab, or head scarf, out of fear of being victimized. She said that driving back to Chicago after celebrating Thanksgiving with her family, she had decided not to stop and pray on the grassy lawn outside an interstate rest stop, as she usually does.“I just got so nervous that something could happen to me by any unhinged individual who saw me as someone who deserved violence,” Ms. Maqbool said.In recent weeks, American Muslims have reported a spate of violence and intimidation against them: women wearing head scarves accosted; Muslim children bullied; bullets shot at a mosque in Meriden, Conn.; feces thrown at a mosque in Pflugerville, Tex.Omair Siddiqi said he had been about to get into his car in the parking lot of a shopping mall in the Dallas suburbs last month when a man came up to him, flashed a gun and said, “If I wanted to, I could kill you right now.”Mr. Siddiqi said he stayed quiet and the man walked away. Mr. Siddiqi called 911 and is now in the process of getting a concealed-handgun permit. “It’s very scary in times like this,” he said.
Muslims say that they observed an escalation in hateful episodes this fall after anti-Muslim remarks by the Republican presidential candidates Donald J. Trump and Ben Carson. The threats, vandalism and violence grew more frequent and frightening after the attacks by Islamic State militants last month in Paris.The Republican candidates for president angrily demanded on Friday that the United States face up to a new world war, one that has breached its borders, threatened the safety of Americans and brought the menace of Islamic terrorism deep into the homeland.With striking unanimity, they accused President Obama and his fellow Democrats of shrinking from a long-overdue assault on the Islamic State and its frighteningly effective tools of global recruitment.
Their aggression reflected the degree to which the diffuse and chaotic campaign is being reordered as the threat of terrorism moves from the capitals of foreign lands to San Bernardino, Calif., a working class city outside Los Angeles.“Our nation is under siege,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said at a cafe in rural Iowa. “What I believe we’re facing is the next world war. This is what we’re in right now, already.”
The rising tide of bellicosity gripped the Republican presidential field, as the initial restraint and calls for prayers that followed the shootings gave way to revelations that the massacre may have been inspired by the Islamic State.Senator Ted Cruz of Texas seethed with disgust for Democrats, declaring, “This nation needs a wartime president.”“Whether or not the current administration realizes it, or is willing to acknowledge it,” he added, “our enemies are at war with us.”Their language was almost apocalyptic. Jeb Bush described the looming threat of “Islamic terrorism that wants to destroy our way of life, wants to attack our freedom.”He gravely added: “They have declared war on us. And we need to declare war on them.”