Just one week ago, Americans honored and remembered the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which were carried out by radical Muslim terrorists. In the aftermath of those attacks, prejudice against and unfounded fear of the Muslim population seemed to soar to new heights, leaving the Muslim-American population struggling for acceptance and peace. Now, the Chelsea explosion and St. Cloud stabbings have reenergized Islamophobia in the worst way.
On Saturday night, an explosion occurred on West 23rd Street in New York City, the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. At least 29 people were injured when what appeared to be a homemade bomb reportedly detonated from a dumpster. A second device was found nearby.
Also on Saturday night, at least eight people were stabbed at a mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota. In that case, The Minneapolis Star Tribune has reported that the suspect may have made references to Allah during the attack. However, no motive had been confirmed in either the St. Cloud stabbings or the Chelsea explosion as of early Sunday morning. That didn't stop many people, particularly on social media, from jumping to conclusions about the intentions of the attackers, linking the violence to the religion of Islam and the recent Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The Islamophobic comments that have been made since both attacks are particularly poignant in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, hours before the attack in St. Cloud, a crowd gathered about 65 miles away in Minneapolis to protest Islamophobia. According to CBS Minnesota, the gathering was a "Stand Up Against Islamophobia March," which ended at the state's Republican Party office. Organizers blamed much of the current Islamophobia on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Trump found himself in hot water on Saturday when he seemed to jump to conclusions of his own. At an event in Colorado, Trump called the Chelsea explosion a bombing, before any details of the incident had been confirmed. "We've got to get very tough," he reportedly said.
Trump did not directly reference Muslim attackers when he spoke, however he has been criticized plenty for the way that he speaks about the religion of Islam. For instance, he once suggested a ban on all Muslim immigration into the U.S. He also made disparaging comments about the mother of a Muslim-American man and U.S. soldier who was killed in Iraq.
As Rana Elmir, deputy director for the ACLU of Michigan and a Muslim-American woman herself, wrote in The Washington Post on Friday, anti-Muslim comments like those made by Trump seem to be fueling a resurgence of Islamophobia. According to Elmir's column, 2015 had the highest number of anti-Muslim hate crimes — five times the pre-9/11 rate.
The sad truth is that Islamophobia would likely still be an issue even if Trump weren't running for president. It's something that's often related to 9/11, but the prejudice certainly existed before 2001. What's more, it's something that Muslim-Americans are still very much dealing with, but violent attacks that have nothing to do with the accepted practice of Islam should not become fuel for more prejudice.