Hate crimes, anti-Semitism and bigotry have increased manifold in the United States since Donald Trump assumed the country's presidency in January 2017. Many have reasoned that these are happening as a result of the administration's rhetoric against minority groups including Jews, Muslims and more while refraining from criticising far-right supremacist and neo-Nazi elements.
The massacre of Jewish worshippers at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue in Pennsylvania on October 27 this year has raised serious concerns in the United States. As many as 11 worshipers were killed and many, including police personnel, were wounded by Robert Bowers, a white gunman, who allegedly screamed anti-Semitic slurs while shooting inside the synagogue. The shooter reportedly killed Jewish people because they were committing genocide of 'his people'.
The attack has been dubbed as the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history. The mayor of Pittsburgh called the attack the deadliest day of Pittsburgh's history and waived off President Trump's suggestion that the synagogue should have had armed guards. FBI special agent Robert Jones, who is in charge of investigating the incident, reportedly said that this was "the most horrific crime scene I have seen in 22 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation." Chief executive and national Director of Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, was of the opinion that USA "never had an attack of such depravity where so many people were killed". In an interview on October 29, Ari Lev Formari, a rabbi at Koltzedek Synagogue in West Philadelphia, held Trump, the Republican party, his supporters and his enablers directly responsible for this attack.
President Trump paid a visit after three days of the incident at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue. He strongly condemned the shooting as "pure evil" and added that the vile, hate-filled poison "of anti-Semitism and all other forms of prejudice must be rejected".
That the president was not welcome to visit the synagogue was reflected in a letter that was signed by 35,000 residents of Pittsburgh, who urged him not to come. The letter, among other things, read: "Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted. You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of colour, Muslims, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities."
Accompanied by first Lady Melania, President Trump visited the synagogue to pay homage to the 11 departed souls and console the wounded, including police officers, at the University of Pittsburgh medical centre. No elected members of the Congress or representatives from Pennsylvania state accompanied Trump. He was greeted by protesters chanting slogans like "words matter" and "Trump, go home".
Interestingly, the attack on the synagogue came a day after Cesar Sayoc, an avid supporter of Trump allegedly linked with Russia, was arrested in Florida on charges of mailing mysterious bombs to more than a dozen high profile Democrat leaders. He had also mailed a bomb to pro-Democrat billionaire and Jewish George Soros and TV news channel CNN. All the individuals and the channel are outspoken critics of Donald Trump.
Sayoc's arrest happened three days after a white gunman fatally shot two African-Americans at a Kentucky grocery shop shortly after failing to enter a church meant for African-Americans.
CBS news reported that hate crimes were up by 12.46 per cent from the previous year in 38 states of the USA. There were 1,038 hate crimes in the country's 10 largest cities in 2018.
It has been reported that as many as 11 Jewish centres have been evacuated after receiving bomb threats while nearly 200 headstones in the Jewish cemetery were vandalised over the last weekend of October in St. Louis.
The Jewish community is the second largest in the United States covering an estimated 2.20 percent of entire population. According to Pew Research, an estimated 5.30 million Jewish people are living in the United States while Muslim population is about 3.43 million in USA. Muslims cover 1.10 percent of the total US population.
Most criminal experts and analysts are pointing towards Trump and his actions for the increase in hate crimes. Trump's first action after becoming president was to ban the entry of Muslims from seven Muslim-dominated countries of the Middle East and North Africa in a bid to "stop entry of terrorists". He issued the executive order on January 29, 2017.
Trump had also said on October 22 this year that "criminals and unknown Middle Eastern" people are mixed in with the caravan of migrants from Honduras that is coming towards United States. A few days later, he contradicted himself when he said that there are no Middle Eastern people in the caravan.
Also, Trump had not criticised specifically the heinous acts of white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups during a civil riot in Charlottesville of Virginia on August 12, 2017 that had left dozens injured and one female counter-protestor dead. Instead the President went on record saying, "we condemn in strongest possible terms this gregarious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on all sides".
A commentator in the Philadelphia Inquirer has recently written, "...in his demagogic demolition of immigrants, political opponents, and the press and in his shameless lying, Trump has shown that he will go to any length to stir up hatred and anxiety to keep his grip on power.''
Mohammad Amjad Hossain is a retired diplomat and former President of Nova Toastmaster International Club of America.
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