February 10, 2016 is the first anniversary of the murders of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha, the young American Muslims who were shot and killed by their neighbor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Their deaths were covered in national newspapers and on nightly news broadcasts. Hashtags and fundraising campaigns emerged to remember their lives. President Obama released a statement saying that “no one…should ever be targeted because of who they are.” Muslim civil rights groups and the victims’ family believe that the attack was motivated by anti-Muslim bias. The attorney’s office has yet to determine whether or not the alleged perpetrator, Craig Hicks, will also be charged with a hate crime.
During early 2015, this attack may have seemed to many like a fluke — a tragic but rare incident of prejudice gone wrong.
But, as we now know, the Chapel Hill shooting didn’t occur in isolation.
At the end of 2015, the country watched as attacks on Muslims in America increased in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, and amid the often-discriminatory rhetoric of leading presidential candidates. But earlier in 2015, when Islamophobia was still a widespread problem, it received little media coverage. Of the many other troubling incidents of prejudice gone wrong that occurred throughout the country, only the shooting in Chapel Hill received national attention.
The shooting in Chapel Hill was simply the most visible incident in a broader climate of increased Islamophobia.
In mid-2015, we at the Bridge Initiative compiled all of the attacks on Muslims in America that were reported by local and national news outlets both before and after the Chapel Hill shooting.* We found a troubling surge in attacks in the wake of the North Carolina murders. But it wasn’t until late November 2015 that this wider climate of Islamophobia started to receive mainstream, national media attention.
Below we document some “Chapel Hills” you likely haven’t heard about, and point out a troubling surge that occurred after the Chapel Hill shooting.
You can engage with the data in two ways: check out our interactive timeline, which provides specific details about each incident, and download our sharable infographics.
There are a couple of major points you should take away from the data:
- Attacks against Muslims and Islamic institutions surged after the Chapel Hill shootings, with one vandal even spray painting, “Now this is a hate crime,” on the exterior of an Islamic school in Rhode Island.
- Between December 2014 and July 2015, at least nine Muslims were murdered in the U.S. and Canada. Some cases are being investigated to determine whether or not an anti-Muslim bias motivated the crime.
- 52 attacks against Muslims occurred across the country from November 2014 to July 2015. But this statistic likely underestimates the numbers of attacks that have occurred, since many Muslims don’t report bias incidents to law enforcement.
*A note on method: The attacks compiled come from reports by local and national news media outlets, and from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group that tracks incidents targeting Muslims. We gathered the reports between November 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015. The attacks total 52, and include murders, shootings, vandalisms, arsons, physical and verbal assaults, and threats, among other incidents. Some of the attacks we catalogued were clearly motivated by feelings of prejudice, and are being treated as hate crimes. In other incidents, the motive is less clear.
[This piece was originally published in July 2015. It was revised and updated on February 10, 2016.)