Dallas

Muslim group says it’s been targeted, taunted since Trump’s election

Alia Salem, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations for DFW, and other religious leaders hold a press conference at the Masjid Al-Sahaabah mosque in Watauga about the arrest of a man making threats to mosque members on Aug. 24.
Alia Salem, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations for DFW, and other religious leaders hold a press conference at the Masjid Al-Sahaabah mosque in Watauga about the arrest of a man making threats to mosque members on Aug. 24. rmallison@star-telegram.com

A North Texas Muslims group is “unnerved” this week after it was threatened and taunted late last week — and it believes it’s because Donald Trump won the election last week.

Alia Salem, executive director of the Center for American-Islamic Relations DFW, said in a Facebook post that several people wearing masks on motorcycles and in pickup trucks circled CAIR’s Dallas office on Friday. Salem said they were waving flags, flicking them off and shouting expletives.

The next day, Salem said the group was targeted again during a community meeting on race relations at a coffee shop when someone called and asked if it was “where the terrorists are meeting,” Salem told FOX 4 News.

“Our staff is pretty shaken up,” she said in the Facebook post. “No physical violence took place ... but certainly it’s been triggering and very emotional to have those things happen to us.”

In August, a Watauga man called a nearby mosque and threatened to cut the heads off everyone in the mosque, according to Watauga police. After the suspect, James Nicholas Smithey, 36, was arrested, Salem and other local religious leaders conducted a news conference at the Masjid Al-Sahaabah mosque and expressed worry about rising “anti-Muslim sentiment in the country.”

Salem said then that a patter of discrimination was “particularly in response to recent rhetoric from elected officials and people who are running for office of the president of the United States.”

During his campaign, Trump pledged that he would ban all Muslims temporarily from entering the country if he won, but later suggested he may ban people from countries linked to terrorism instead of using religion as a criteria. As of Tuesday morning, Trump has reportedly not discussed the ban publicly.

The FBI released statistics Sunday showing that hate crimes against Muslims had risen by 67 percent in the United States in 2015, from 154 in 2014 to 257 in 2015. That’s proportionately higher than increases in other types of hate crimes, which also rose in 2015, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit civil rights organization. Anti-Jewish hate crimes — again the most prevalent — increased 9 percent, anti-black hate crimes rose by almost 8 percent, and anti-LGBT hate crimes increased by almost 5 percent, the SPLC reported.

The weekend before the election, Salem posted a video on social media saying that the FBI was targeting Muslims around the country and in North Texas for interviews about an alleged terrorism threat for the day before the election. She urged Muslim residents to decline to do interviews without a lawyer, and she worried that it would keep some Muslims from voting on Election Day.

“The unintended consequence of this is voter suppression,” Salem said.

Mark David Smith: 817-390-7808, @MarkSmith_FWST

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