It’s been cited as one of the factors contributing to a documented increase in hate crimes against Muslims — the most since the 9/11 era.
And now, with less than a week to go until the election, a mosque in Boynton Beach has become the latest target.
At 12:40 a.m. Wednesday morning, an unidentified individual pulled up to the Al Amin Islamic Center and spray painted “Fuck Islam” and “Fuck ISIS” on its sign. The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the incident, which was captured by the mosque’s security cameras.
Is it too much of a stretch to blame Donald Trump for this? Not really, according to Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida.
“He has been openly criticizing Muslims and using damaging rhetoric that obviously fuels these kinds of incidents and hate crimes,” Ruiz says, noting that Trump is hardly the only candidate guilty of this behavior. “There are a lot of politicians who have used Islam and the Muslim community as a political football.” (See also: Marco Rubio.)
When plans for the Al Amin Islamic Center were first unveiled in 2011, they faced opposition from residents who called it “a terrible place” and “a nightmare.” Since then, its members have gone out of their way to try to be good neighbors and correct misconceptions about Islam. They’ve hosted interfaith Mother’s Day potlucks, welcomed non-Muslim community members to their Ramadan celebrations, and invited congregants from local synagogues over for dinner.
But all of that goodwill hasn’t been enough to counteract the rising tide of anti-Islamic sentiment, which mosques throughout Florida have increasingly seen over the past year.
“The divisive and Islamophobic rhetoric is inspiring people to commit hate crimes and even terrorist attacks,” Ruiz says, pointing to the September arson of a Fort Pierce mosque as an example. “It wasn’t labeled as that, but it was an act of terror. What was the purpose of that, if not to terrorize the Muslim community?”