The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased paranoia, hatred, and violence in the United States.
In an October 21, 2021 article in Forbes’ digital magazine, business writer Robert Hart cited a recent Scientific Reports study that found gun violence increased during the pandemic in 27 states while declining in only one. Between March 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, the study reports there were 51,000 incidents of gun violence across the U.S. as compared to 39,000 during the previous 13-month period.
Increased Violence, Hate Crimes
This social atmosphere of violence has led to an increased number of racist attacks on Asians, Muslims, and Islamophobic attacks on mosques. The latter is not surprising. As the nation drew closer to the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks this year, American Muslims in general and mosques, in particular, have come under assault.
Unfortunately, Texas ranks in the top ten states in the number of attacks on mosques.
The Pew Research Center reports that roughly 3.85 million Muslims (1.8% of the U.S. population) worship in 2700 mosques across the country. A March 2021 survey by Pew found that more than three out of every four Americans (78%) believe that Muslims face more discrimination than any other religious group in the country.
While the COVID pandemic has fueled all sorts of hatred (both racial and religious) in this country, the spike in attacks on Muslims in recent years can be attributed, in part, to the racist anti-immigration policies of the previous presidential administration.
American Muslims Fear for Safety
Those policies, and the current racial and political divisions in the country, have prompted nearly 80 percent of American Muslims to have some concern about their safety, according to Hatem Bazian, lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and leader of the college’s Islamophobia Research and Documentation Department.
In Houston, the local FBI office announced it has recently launched a “hate crime reporting campaign,” pointing out that Texas had at least 406 reported hate crimes in 2020—ranking the state 30th in the number of hate crimes per 100,000 people.
The problem of Islamophobia is not unique to the United States.
Policy Options Politiques—a digital magazine that focuses on social and political issues in Canada—reports that the COVID pandemic in that country has led to significant increases in attacks on Muslims and Islam. The magazine accused news outlets—New York Times, BBC, CNN, and Canada’s CP-24—of using “irrelevant pictures” linking Islamic religious practices as sources for the contagion.
The magazine stressed that “It’s clear that Canadian Muslims are carrying another burden alongside the stressors of the pandemic: the stigma of exclusion. And worse, this is coming at a time when the Muslim Association of Canada and other Muslim organizations, through their leadership and frontline services, have helped countless Canadians – actions that have been recognized by several members of Parliament as well as Trudeau, himself. Ultimately, Islamophobia not only hurts Canadian Muslims and divides our shared communities, it is also detrimental to Muslim efforts on the frontlines of the pandemic.”
The tragedy of the political and pandemic-inspired attacks on Islam is that Muslims in the U.S. and other parts of the world have undertaken aggressive efforts to fight the COVID pandemic. The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) reports that:
“Muslims also make up the most ethnically diverse faith community in the country, with 28% of Muslims identifying as Black or African American. Data show that Black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at disproportionately higher rates, placing Black Muslims at the intersection of the socioeconomic and racial impact of the disease …
“And while American Muslims overall make up only about 1% of the population, they make up a disproportionately large segment of the frontline workers risking their health and that of their families in the fight against COVID-19. For example, in Michigan, 15% of all doctors and 11% of all pharmacists are Muslim. In New York City, one of the hardest hit areas of the country, Muslims make up a full 10% of the city’s medical doctors and 13% of pharmacists. Muslims also make up a staggering 40% of all New York City cab drivers, an under-recognized group of essential workers risking their health every day by transporting ill customers to health appointments or the pharmacy.”
Racial and religious hatred knows no bounds. It is a social cancer that not only fuels but feeds off of violence. America may recover from the COVID pandemic, but it will take decades to heal the social, racial, and religious fractures it has inflicted upon the nation.