U.S. Vermont shooting reveals escalating hate crimes against Jewish, Muslim, Arab communities

(Xinhua) 11:33, December 02, 2023

NEW YORK, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Kinnan Abdalhamid, one of the three 20-year-old Palestinian-American students shot Saturday night in Burlington, the U.S. State of Vermont, recalled seeing a gunman open fire without saying a word, in a U.S. television interview Wednesday.

"On the way back, we see this man on his porch essentially looking away from us. He turns around, looks at us, and without saying a word -- it was almost surreal -- he went down the steps, pulled out a pistol and shot my friend," Abdalhamid told CNN on Wednesday night.

Abdalhamid said when attacked they were speaking a mixture of English and Arabic and two were wearing keffiyehs, traditional Palestinian scarves.

The 48-year-old suspected shooter was arrested Sunday night and pleaded not guilty to attempted second-degree murder charges in a Burlington court.

The authorities said at a news conference they're still working to determine a motive for the shooting.

On Monday afternoon, U.S. President Joe Biden and the first lady, Jill Biden, issued a statement from the White House condemning the shooting, saying "There is no place for violence or hate in America."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee said on X: "We have reason to believe that the shooting was motivated by the three (victims) being Arab."

The families of the three victims put out a joint statement calling on the law enforcement authorities to conduct a thorough investigation, "including treating this as a hate crime."

Since the beginning of the latest round of the Palestine-Israel conflict on Oct. 7, hate crimes against both Jewish communities and people perceived to be Arab or Muslim in the United States have surged.

In a month between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a prominent American Jewish advocacy group, documented a staggering 832 incidents of antisemitic assault, vandalism, and harassment. This alarming figure, averaging nearly 28 incidents per day, reflects a substantial 315 percent increase compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. The incidents cataloged by the ADL encompassed over 600 instances of harassment, 170 cases of vandalism, and 30 assaults.

Simultaneously, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a U.S. Muslim civil rights group, has reported an "unprecedented surge in bigotry" with 1,283 requests for assistance and complaints related to anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias between Oct.7 and Nov.4. That marked a notable 216 percent rise compared to the average for 29 days in the preceding year. CAIR highlighted that more than 15 percent of the complaints directed to its national office pertained to alleged hate crimes.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Oct. 19 that the Justice Department is monitoring an increase in reported threats against Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities in the United States tied to the Palestine-Israel conflict in the Gaza Strip.

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray warned that antisemitism in the United States has reached "historic levels" in the wake of the conflict, in a testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee on Oct. 31.

At the beginning of November, Garland held meetings with Jewish leaders, and Muslim, Arab, Sikh, South Asian, Hindu community leaders, respectively.

Despite these efforts, advocates say many American Muslims and Arabs don't trust the FBI and do not report when they are the target of hate crimes because of the bureau's aggressive tactics targeting Muslim and Arab communities after the 9/11 terror attacks.

On Nov. 1 the White House revealed the National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia. It was criticized as "a bait and switch from an administration that fears for its political future" by local media. The op-ed said it might further erode civil liberties under the guise of national security, without addressing the driving force of the latest round of Islamophobic hatred.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Hongyu)


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