For American Muslims this year, the holy month of Ramadan ― a disciplined period of fasting, reflection and prayer ― was at times something akin to a horror show.
Then there was the sadly predictable backlash in the U.S., with politicians and pundits publicly blaming a major religion and its 1.6 billion adherents for the actions of a few.
And then there was the anti-Muslim terror.
The Huffington Post, using its Islamophobia tracker, has identified at least 19 reported instances in the U.S. during Ramadan, from June 4 to July 6, in which Muslims were allegedly targeted because of their faith. These include cases of harassment, threats, vandalism and violence.
Below is a partial list:
“Fuck Muslims,” a man allegedly said before shooting and wounding two Muslim men in Minnesota.
“We know where you are, we know your location... We will come at the right time,” read a threatening email to a mosque in Orlando, Florida.
“You fucking Muslims. I heard you’re here to conquer us,” a man allegedly told an imam in Staten Island, New York, before picking up a pipe and threatening to kill the imam and “all Muslims.”
“Leave now before it is too late,” read another threatening email to the Islamic Society of North America headquarters in Indiana, where members had discovered bullet holes in the building’s sign a week earlier.
“We must execute the Muslim scum. Full on eradication,” read a tweet directed at a mosque in Michigan.
“Take your rag ass back to your country. I’m gonna fucking kill you,” a man in a truck allegedly screamed before attempting to run a Muslim man off a Texas road.
“You are Muslim and not welcome,” read a note left for a family of Syrian refugees in Arizona. “Please move before danger can happen.”
A man brandishing a gun “told people at [the Masjid Al-Madina in Raeford, North Carolina] that he would kill them and bury them behind the mosque,” Capt. John Kivett of the local sheriff’s office said.
“Too many targets to count,” wrote an armed Seattle man on Facebook, vowing to “take revenge” on Muslims at a mosque there.
The word “ISIS” and a swastika were carved into a Muslim woman’s car in Lynnwood, Washington.
“Fuck Muzlim” and “terroist” were spray-painted on a Muslim man’s car in Palmdale, California. The car’s windows were also smashed in.
Two Islamic centers in the Chicago area received threats.
“Get the hell out of the country you bitch ass Muslims!” a woman allegedly screamed at a Muslim mother and daughter during a road rage incident in Maryland.
A man ran into an Ohio mosque during a prayer service screaming “Jesus is Lord!” before attempting to steal a phone when a member of the mosque tried to call the police.
Hours after Ramadan ended, someone also opened fire on a mosque in Texas, hitting the building multiple times and shattering the glass front door. Thankfully, no one was injured.
“Given these incidents, many [Muslims] are understandably fearful to go to their houses of worship,” Jordan Denari Duffner, a research fellow at Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, a multi-year project studying Islamophobia, told HuffPost in an email. “And this is a shame in a country where freedom of religion is supposed to be a basic right.”
“As a Catholic, I can’t imagine what it would be like to find my church vandalized or shot at during the lead up to Christmas, or to learn that in many places around the country, people who share my faith were beaten up outside their place of prayer,” Duffner continued. “It would be extremely frightening. This is the reality American Muslims are living with.”
HuffPost identified 200 news stories of anti-Muslim violence, aggression, discrimination, rhetoric and policy in the first six months of 2016.
A report released earlier this year by the Bridge Initiative found that there were more acts of anti-Muslim violence and vandalism in 2015 than in any year since the Sept. 11 attacks ― likely due in part to the constant and broad demonization of Muslims from Republican presidential candidates, most notably Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee.
Another report this year, from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, found 78 instances in 2015 in which mosques were targeted for vandalism, arson and other types of destruction, up from 20 such instances the year before.
Similarly, hate crimes targeting Muslims tripled in the month after the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, while Trump and other political figures were ratcheting up their anti-Muslim remarks.
That kind of angry, paranoid, divisive political speech was everywhere during this year’s Ramadan.
After the terror attack in Orlando, in which a man who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State militant group killed 49 people at a gay nightclub, Trump called for surveillance of mosques and the racial profiling of Muslims. He also said that Muslims don’t assimilate into American culture. (They do.)
Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) invited an anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist to testify before Congress; Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) claimed that Muslims “want to kill every homosexual in the U.S.”; a Republican congressional candidate named Joe Kaufman wrote that “every radical Muslim institution” needs to be shut down, but offered no plan for distinguishing “radical” groups from non-radical ones; Oklahoma state Rep. Pat Ownbey (R) said he wasn’t sure if the First Amendment protects Islam; Fredy Burgos, a member of Virginia’s Republican State Central Committee, called Islam “a death cult organized by Satan”; and Matthew Jansen, a Trump delegate in Pennsylvania, said Islam “is not only godless but pagan.”
“Many American Muslims noted that the passing of Muhammad Ali allowed space for a rare, positive conversation about Islam in America,” said Corey Sayor, the director of CAIR’s department to monitor and combat Islamophobia.
“Unfortunately, that was erased by one deeply disturbed individual murdering innocent people in Florida,” Sayor went on. “Many Muslims have expressed frustration over this reality to me, but in each instance I see a resilience that inspires them to continue to push back against both Islamophobes and violent extremists.”
And these efforts might be working.
I am hurt but I have faith. Rowaida Abdelaziz, HuffPost social media editor
Despite the anti-Muslim fearmongering from politicians and the persistence of anti-Muslim crimes, a recent poll shows ― as a Politico headline put it ― an encouraging “backlash against the Muslim backlash.”
The poll, from the Brookings Institution, found that 62 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Muslims, a 9 percent jump from November, when a University of Maryland poll found that only 53 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Muslims.
Similarly, 44 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Islam, a 7 percent jump from November.
“I am hurt but I have faith,” HuffPost social media editor Rowaida Abdelaziz wrote on July 5, one day before the end of Ramadan and Eid, the celebratory breaking of the fast. “Ramadan has not only allowed me to push through these tough times, but it has given me the solitude I needed to see that hope. It gave me the strength, even for just a moment, to continue to push past the hateful comments from bigots on my feed, the heartbreaking news globally and in the U.S., and the deafening silence that comes with it all.”
“Tonight we bid Ramadan farewell,” she added. “And celebrate Eid with hope.”