Anti-Muslim hate crimes increase after 9/11, Madison Muslim community unites against hate

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:00 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 7:17 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims are nothing new in America but statistics from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program show hate crimes against Muslims have grown since September 11th, 2001.

The data shows anti-Muslim hate crime incidents spiked after September 11th, 2001, jumping from 28 incidents in 2000 to 481 in 2001.

The numbers have dropped in the following years, increasing a bit in 2015 and 2016, but they have never returned to levels reported before the 9/11 attacks.

Even in 2019, the latest data shows around 176 hate crime incidents against Muslims.

Behind each of these numbers is a name, and the Muslim community in Madison is making moves to eliminate hate.

Most Americans remember where they were and what they were doing when the Twin Towers fell on September 11th, 2001.

“I was in the sixth grade, makes me a little emotional to think about it, But I was just a little kid who sitting in my social studies classroom,” Medinah Academy of Madison Principal Umar Warsi said.

Watching the news that morning, then 12-year-old Warsi said he was scared and confused, especially when he heard the term Islamic Terrorists, which brought his own religion into public conversation.

“But, you know, as often as you will speak to other Muslim and millennials especially, they feel like we feel like we’ve had to answer for the crimes of other people,” Warsi said.

He says linking the Islamic faith with these attacks was damaging mentally and physically.

“I myself have been discriminated against been a victim to hate crime with physical assault, just because I’m Muslim,” Warsi said.

Because of the increase in minority hate crimes, including the 2012 Sikh temple shooting in Milwaukee that killed 7 people, some places of worship are taking extra precautions.

“Now, because of what’s happening in this country. We ended up hiring actually a security guard 30 days, guys waiting outside, loaded gun waiting, in case something happens,” We Are Many – United Against Hate President and Founder and Muslim Activist Masoon Akhtar said.

Akhtar said fear in the Muslim community in Madison increased again in 2015 during the presidential election.

“Because people are hearing that if Donald Trump gets elected, then there will be a Muslim ban. And then he’s going to reach out to, you know, profile Muslims and all those kinds of things. That was a very scary moment,” Akhtar said.

But a moment that inspired Akhtar to create “We Are Many – United Against Hate” a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that works with elected officials to create policy change and hosts educational events at school about overcoming differences.

“When the youth get involved into this, because we are going to go after this, what is causing these kinds of problems, and understanding the root cause for this hate in all of these communities, whether it is Muslim communities you’ll see another Asian American communities, Jewish community will be getting going out to these students, engaging them is a part of this,” Akhtar said.

Challenging prejudice, something UW Madison Division of Extension Program Manager Sarah Schlosser faces frequently, as a white Muslim woman who wears a hijab.

“I think a misconception is that if someone’s in hijab if they’re covering that there’s no way they could be a feminist, there’s no way they can believe in women’s rights and I actually feel like if we believe that women have a right to wear whatever they want, that should be include being as uncovered or as covered as they choose,” Schlosser said.

She said in her daily life, she sometimes experiences discrimination.

“One time I was interacting with someone they said like, I just don’t know how to deal with this, and they were sort of referencing my scarf,” Schlosser said.

She acknowledges her race is most likely one of the reasons she has not been the victim of a hate crime.

“I’m from this country. I, you know, I know the systems, I know the culture, and I’m a white woman. And so, although I cover, I think I get responded to differently than my friends who are women of color, or immigrants,” Schlosser said

Schlosser also serves as the Vice President of the board at Medinah Academy of Madison where Umar Warsi is the principal.

“This work is important for me. This is a space where students do feel that belonging, we have our prayers without anybody asking are you doing yoga, we have, we have our Eid celebrations without us feeling uncomfortable to tell the teacher that we need a day off,” Warsi said.

Warsi wants to create a space that empowers people to see themselves in their neighbors.

“We’re all after the same thing, which is just to be happy and live-in peace. And if we can work together. I think we can make big moves,” Warsi said.

The organization We are Many – United Against Hate continues to unite people by hosting a program and inviting a panel of former hate group members to lead a discussion on the transition away from the hate groups and becoming more inclusive.

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