More in the militia movement are finding a new target: American Muslims

More in the militia movement are finding a new target: American Muslims

More in the militia movement are finding a new target: American Muslims

The revelation of an alleged domestic terrorism plot to kill Somali immigrants in southwest Kansas serves as a glaring illustration of what experts say is a growing concern. Across the country, they say, anti-government extremists are shifting their sights from federal agencies to Muslim people at an alarming rate. The irony, Pitcavage said, is that after the Oklahoma City bombing catapulted the militia movement into the national spotlight two decades ago, its leaders spent years trying to distance the movement from white supremacy.

A new study by researchers at California State University-San Bernardino found that anti-Muslim hate crimes are at the highest level since the period immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The study, which examined hate crimes in 21 states and the District of Columbia — 56 percent of the U.S. population — found that hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 jumped more than 86 percent over the previous year, from 114 to 213.

That makes 2015 “the worst year for anti-Muslim hate crime that we’ve seen since 2001 and the second-worst that we’ve seen since records have been kept,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino. “We’re now about nine times more than the numbers we saw pre-2001.”

The increase is due to a combination of factors, Levin said, including an escalation of terrorist attacks in the United States and overseas and the existence of a galvanized national political movement that uses anti-Muslim rhetoric.

The statistics don’t indicate how many of the hate crimes were committed by anti-government extremists, but experts say the number is significant. And Daryl Johnson, a former senior analyst with the Department of Homeland Security, said the political rhetoric has played a key role in the surge.

While the militia movement has typically targeted the government as well as federal law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Johnson said, the Kansas case highlights how the movement has expanded its targets.

“They justify targeting Muslims because they believe that Muslims are connected to ISIS and every mosque is an indoctrination center,” he said. “So they stereotype and broad-brush every Muslim as a threat and sympathizer with ISIS.” Fueling the anti-Muslim attitudes, Johnson said, are terrorist attacks such as those in Orlando, Fla., and San Bernardino.

Because most militias are defense oriented, Johnson said, they’re preparing for the next ISIS attack. Levin said that although violent jihadis inspired by the Islamic State and al-Qaida remain the most prominent terror threat in the U.S., “we now face a multifaceted terrorism risk.”

Read more at: The Kansas City Star

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