As hate crimes spike, local Muslims more concerned with subtle discrimination

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Groups that monitor the stats say there’s been an uptick in reports of hate crimes since Election Day across the country — more than 300 hate incidents reported so far.

It comes as new statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show the same crimes spiking across the country last year, especially those targeting Muslims.

Hate crimes targeting the Islamic community are pretty rare in Pennsylvania compared to the nation as a whole. But Muslims in Harrisburg say that’s only part of the story.

“Some of us are in disbelief from looking at it and saying, ‘We kind of thought this might happen,’ but you hope that it won’t,” Christopher Khalid-Janney said Tuesday.

Khalid-Janney works in outreach for Harrisburg’s Ahmadiyya Muslim community. He’s more concerned with subtle acts of discrimination and disapproving looks.

He said recently some local members of the faith have asked the women in their lives not to wear hijabs out of fear.

“And that’s scary,” he said. “My youngest is a daughter, and it scares me to think about the things that she’s going to deal with as she gets older.”

In 2014, the FBI recorded 5,479 total hate crimes in the U.S., 154 of them targeting Muslims. Last year, it was up to 5,850 total, with 257 against Muslims.

That’s a jump of nearly 67 percent in one year, and those crimes now represent more than one-fifth of all hate crimes.

In the Keystone State the numbers skew differently. Other groups take the brunt of the crimes.

A photo of recent vandalism at Lebanon Valley College illustrates it. The graffiti, written on the side of a building, features a racial slur targeting African-Americans with “#Trump” next to it.

The state reported four anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2014, representing less than 5 percent of the total; the 2015 numbers aren’t official yet, but so far Pennsylvania has tallied six incidents last year, just over 5 percent of the total.

Khalid-Janney said these incidents are bound to happen to some extent.

“That doesn’t mean that we can’t try to work together to say let’s reduce that,” he said.

One of the ways his community is reaching out is by holding events called Coffee, Cake, and True Islam. Basically, it’s a chance to meet and talk with members of the Muslim community over a cup of coffee.

It happens on Tuesdays from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore.

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