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MINNEAPOLIS — Two incidents of racially-motivated attacks against Muslims in the American Midwest highlight what experts say is a growing wave of Islamophobia and violence.
Police in Streamwood, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, are investigating a disturbing flier found on a vehicle outside a Muslim family’s home earlier this month:
This is being mailed to Muslims in a Chicago suburb. "We want you out." pic.twitter.com/fnsaDNj9Cz
— Imraan Siddiqi (@imraansiddiqi) October 16, 2015
On Sunday, police in Bloomington, Indiana, arrested Triceten Bickford, a 19-year-old student at Indiana University, for allegedly carrying out a brutal attack on a Muslim woman as she sat with her 9-year-old daughter in a cafe.
According to WTTV News in Indianapolis, witnesses say Bickford shouted “white power” and kill them all” during a savage beating:
Bickford then grabbed the woman by her neck and slammed her head into the table. He then attempted to remove the woman’s headscarf.
The woman’s husband saw what was going on and he rushed to her aid along with another man. They successfully pinned Bickford to the ground and waited for police to arrive. While they were waiting, Bickford spit into the men’s faces and continued making threats.
Even after his arrest, Bickford, who police say was found to be intoxicated, wasn’t done with his violence:
When officers arrived at the Monroe County Jail with Bickford, he bit an officer in the lower leg.
Streamwood police told Chicago’s Daily Herald they are taking the matter of the flier “very seriously.” First found on Oct. 9 on a vehicle outside a Muslim family’s home, a copy was also placed in their mailbox. The flier included a screenshot from an ISIS propaganda video and read, in part,
To the Muslims at (resident’s address) Streamwood IL, We want you out, we will continue to mock you and your family …
Be reminded that you are hated here.
Renner Larson, communications coordinator for the Council on American Islamic Relations, told the Herald, “This certainly happens a lot more than is reported.”
In a May intelligence bulletin, the FBI warned that “militia extremists” are increasingly targeting Muslims for violence, including a group in Mississippi that briefly considered kidnapping and beheading a Muslim. In August, Imraan Siddiqi, chairman of the Arizona chapter of CAIR, told the independent news podcast Unauthorized Disclosure about letters received by a mosque in Tempe that included threats to “target your families inside your houses and we’re going to burn your mosque down.”
On Thursday, Mnar Muhawesh, editor-in-chief and publisher of MintPress News, spoke to Citizens for Global Solutions, a group based out of the University of Minnesota, about her own experiences with Islamophobia, which include threats against her family. Last summer, Muhawesh recounted that her “parents were held at gunpoint because a blonde, white middle-aged suburban mom thought they looked suspicious.”
In her speech, Muhawesh stressed that Islamophobic violence in the United States is a reflection of decades of American imperialism and interventionist warfare in the Middle East, which may have claimed as many as 8 million Muslim lives in the modern era.
Citing the recent growth of ISIS as a trigger, CAIR warned in an August brief report that while Islamophobia is a recurring current in American culture, it seems to be growing more serious in recent months:
CAIR has in the past observed that Islamophobia in America goes through cycles of intensity. The 2010 controversy over a planned Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan was the last observed peak in anti-Islam activity. It was characterized by efforts to oppose the construction or expansion of Islamic places of worship across the nation. This latest cycle has had a more violent tone.