Lynch vis­its mosque amid in­crease in anti-Mus­lim hate crimes

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY AN­DREA NOBLE

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta E. Lynch fo­cused at­ten­tion on an uptick in hate crimes against Mus­lims as she vis­ited a mosque in North­ern Vir­ginia on Mon­day, draw­ing par­al­lels be­tween dis­crim­i­na­tion prior gen­er­a­tions have over­come and warn­ing that at­tacks on one group en­dan­ger all mem­bers of so­ci­ety.

“There is a per­ni­cious thread that con­nects the act of vi­o­lence against a woman wear­ing a hi­jab to the as­sault on a trans­gen­der man to the tragic deaths of nine in­no­cent African Amer­i­cans dur­ing a Bi­ble study at Mother Emanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina,” Ms. Lynch said dur­ing her ad­dress at the All Dulles Area Mus­lim So­ci­ety Cen­ter in Ster­ling. “There is a thread that links all of those, and when one of us is threat­ened, all of us are threat­ened.”

The num­ber of hate crimes re­ported in the United States in­creased by about 6 per­cent in 2015 — led by a surge in at­tacks tar­get­ing Mus­lims, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased last month by the FBI.

A to­tal of 5,818 hate crimes were re­ported in 2015, a “sober­ing in­di­ca­tion of how much work re­mains to be done,” Ms. Lynch said.

The num­ber of as­saults, at­tacks on mosques and other crimes that tar­geted Mus­lims grew by 67 per­cent to 257 crimes — the high­est to­tal since 2001, when more than 480 crimes tar­geted Mus­lims in the af­ter­math of the 9/11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

The out­go­ing at­tor­ney gen­eral did not ref­er­ence Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump or men­tion poli­cies he has touted, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of a Mus­lim reg­istry, but she sought to re­as­sure those who are con­cerned about an uptick in re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion.

“I know that many Amer­i­cans are feel­ing un­cer­tainty and anx­i­ety as we wit­ness the re­cent erup­tion of di­vi­sive rhetoric and hate­ful deeds. I know that many Amer­i­cans are won­der­ing if they are in dan­ger sim­ply be­cause of what they look like or where they pray,” Ms. Lynch said. “I know that some are won­der­ing whether the progress we have made at such great cost, and over so many years, is in dan­ger of slid­ing back­wards.”

While she ac­knowl­edged the Depart­ment of Jus­tice will en­counter chal­lenges in the years to come, she said ca­reer prose­cu­tors will con­tinue to en­force fed­eral hate crime laws.

In ad­di­tion to pros­e­cut­ing those re­spon­si­ble for hate crimes, Ms. Lynch high­lighted the work Jus­tice Depart­ment lawyers have done in com­bat­ing land-use dis­crim­i­na­tion against those seek­ing to build mosques or other houses of wor­ship.

“Mem­bers of the Civil Rights Divi­sion have heard re­peat­edly about more overt dis­crim­i­na­tion in both the tone and fram­ing of ob­jec­tions to planned re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions, es­pe­cially mosques and Is­lamic cen­ters,” Ms. Lynch said.

As a re­sult of the in­crease in re­ports of dis­crim­i­na­tion, the Jus­tice Depart­ment has opened 50 in­ves­ti­ga­tions and filed 10 law­suits since 2010 that in­volve the Re­li­gious Land Use and In­sti­tu­tion­al­ized Per­sons Act. Ms. Lynch said 38 per­cent of the depart­ment’s land-use cases in­volved mosques or Is­lamic schools.

Cit­ing the women’s suf­frage move­ment, de­seg­re­ga­tion ef­forts in the Deep South and clashes over the civil rights among the gay com­mu­nity at New York’s Stonewall Inn — a site she will visit Tues­day — the at­tor­ney gen­eral said gen­er­a­tions of Amer­i­cans have de­manded that they re­ceive equal treat­ment.

The equal­ity now rec­og­nized and pro­tected by law was not “a prod­uct of fate, or des­tiny,” she said. Rather, it was borne out of the choices made by in­di­vid­u­als who stood up against dis­crim­i­na­tion and de­manded in­clu­sive and equal treat­ment for all.

“Through the courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion of these and count­less oth­ers who have gone be­fore us, we have slowly built a so­ci­ety that more fully re­flects our found­ing creed of lib­erty and jus­tice for all,” Ms. Lynch said. “That does not mean our work is fin­ished; as you are all well aware, the op­po­site is true.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta E. Lynch sought to re­as­sure Mus­lims near the na­tion’s cap­i­tal af­ter a wave of anti-Is­lamic hate crimes. Ms. Lynch said that dis­crim­i­na­tion against any­one in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety en­dan­gers ev­ery­one in all eth­nic, so­cial and re­li­gious groups.

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