Hate crimes on the rise in Washington

Zahra Abidi is program director at an Islamic center and mosque that received an emailed bomb threat in 2012. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
Zahra Abidi is program director at an Islamic center and mosque that received an emailed bomb threat in 2012. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

“Everything from beatings of women and men… arson attacks, graffiti, death threats …” Arsalan Bukhari, Executive Director of the Washington state Council on American-Islamic Relations (or CAIR) lists recent hate crimes against Muslims in the Northwest states.

He’s doing so in a low-ceilinged, fluorescent-lit conference room that doubles as a kitchen. But I can’t tell you much more about the Seattle CAIR office because its location is secret — a necessity when your organization receives as many as 10 threats a year.

Earlier this month, residents of Bothell woke to a swastika and the words “GET OUT” scrawled in red on the chalk white walls of a local Hindu temple. A nearby school was vandalized with “MUSLIMS GET OUT” alongside another red spray-painted swastika.

In December a cabbie was beaten by his passenger in the Magnolia neighborhood. The man called the driver a “terrorist” and told him “you should go back to your own country” before he punched him repeatedly in the face.

Hate crimes against Muslims nationally remain five times higher than before the Sept. 11 attacks. In Washington, hate crimes in general have increased in the past three years. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs reported almost 300 incidents in 2013 — the most recent year available.

These statistics have some Muslims in our state (estimated to number near 100,000) eager to communicate the devastating impact of hate crimes — crimes defined by the FBI as motivated by “bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation” — on their communities.

Zahra Abidi is program director for the Zainab Organization, an Islamic center and mosque in Lynnwood that received an emailed bomb threat in September 2012.

“When I first saw the email I was angry,” Abidi says. “But the fear hit me there on the street.”

The threat mentioned bombs going off and Mohammad cartoons. The perpetrator was identified and made to enter a “therapeutic alternative to prosecution,” but Abidi says the police response felt casual, especially when compared to police action in similar scenarios.

“They didn’t even come and check our mosque,” says Abidi, “And I said, ‘yeah, if this was a synagogue or a church would you do this? Or if this was a Muslim threatening [to bomb something]?’ ”

Abidi says the threat may have seemed insignificant to some, but the experience has deeply affected her and Zainab. Many members stayed away from the center long after the threat had cleared, and Abidi says she still feels like a target when she’s walking to her car after work.

And it’s not just Muslims who feel like targets. CAIR works with many communities that are attacked for being “perceived as Muslim” including South Asians and Hindus (as Bukhari believes was possibly the case in the recent temple graffiti), Hispanics and African Americans.

Members of one particularly hard-hit group, Sikhs, are often targeted when they’re mistaken for Muslims because of the turbans worn by some followers. Bukhari notes the growing South Asian community in our region and says he sometimes receives phone calls from people referencing a “Muslim community” who, it turns out, are referring to Sikhs.

“Hate crimes and discrimination comes from a lack of understanding and information about who these populations are, as well as a desire to target and other-ize people,” says Washington state Sen. Pramila Jayapal, who was founder of Hate Free Zone (now OneAmerica), an organization formed after 9/11 to address backlash against immigrant communities.

Jayapal says the xenophobia, prejudice and racism that lead to hate crimes “doesn’t get solved quickly,” but she believes education is key. Abidi and Bukhari agree, and CAIR is working on a program that will offer training and class visits that educate teachers and students about Islam.

In the meantime, Bukhari hopes to communicate to media-makers, law enforcement, politicians and citizens the consequences of even nonviolent, hate crimes.

“It’s not just a building where a few hundred dollars’ worth of damage might have been caused… It’s lives, livelihoods, self-esteem and a sense of security that is affected by these things,” says Bukhari, who urges law enforcement to treat the recent Bothell graffiti as a hate crime. “It’s not a crime just against one person, one building, it’s a crime against a… community.”

And it’s a crime against all of us, whoever we are.
The title of this article has been updated for accuracy. A previous version stated that hate crimes specifically targeting Muslims were increasing. There isn’t any available data that demonstrates such an increase.

Sarah Stuteville

Sarah Stuteville is a print and multimedia journalist. She’s a cofounder of The Seattle Globalist. Stuteville won the 2011 Sigma Delta Chi Award for magazine writing. She writes a weekly column on our region’s international connections that is shared by the Seattle Globalist and The Seattle Times and funded with a grant from Seattle International Foundation. Reach Sarah at sarah@seattleglobalist.com.
Sarah Stuteville


  1. It seems that the USA is becoming like Europe to new immigrants. These right wings and conservatives should remember that once their ancestors were unwanted immigrants too.

      1. Are you actually trying to imply that immigration didn’t play a role in building America? This is the type of pseudo-rhetoric that people who fear other religions consistently seem to spout in order to distract others from their vulgar intolerance. Repulsive.

    1. Muslims use migration as a jihad on non muslim lands. Islam is the only religion that acts in this kind of political way, therefore islam should be registered as a political party that seeks world domination and not just a religion.

    2. You clearly know nothing about Islam. Read “The People vs. Muhammad”. It will actually shock you what they believe.

  2. The article title is not supported by the data presented. The report cited states that there were 6 anti-muslim hate crimes. The rise in the total number of hate crimes was 5%, from 278 to 292: unlikely to be statistically significant. The national figure of 5 times higher than pre-september 11th is stable, as indicated by author’s use of “remains at” (in the graphs I’ve seen, it is stable pre 911, spikes briefly, then is stable at the higher rate, but I can’t vouch for the source). All other information is anecdotal.

    I can’t say if hate crimes against Muslims are rising, stable, or falling. The data you’ve provided certainly doesn’t show a rise. If you have better data you should show it. If not, you shouldn’t make such sensational claims. This is an extremely politicized and decisive issue, and your articles may have an impact. Most people reading this would be under the impression that things ate deteriorating dramatically, something you haven’t been able to demonstrate except by misusing data. I have seen a number of articaka recently on this exact same issue, that have done exactly the same thing.

    1. Thanks for you comment Sergio. Statistics on hate crimes are problematic for a number of reasons, most notably that we have to wait a long time for crimes to be classified and the data to be compiled. For instance, will the recent vandalism of Hindu temples in Bothell and Kent, or the littering of KKK fliers with anti-Muslim rhetoric in Spokane, be classified as hate crimes? In the context of other nearby vandalism, the graffiti in Bothell seems to have been anti-Muslim sentiment misdirected due to the ignorance of the perpetrator — will the reporting reflect that? And we won’t have the statewide numbers for at least a year, so we’re left to draw on 2013 data for an article about what’s happening right now.
      You’re correct that the WASPC numbers don’t show and increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims between 2012 and 2013. I’ve updated the article title to reflect that there isn’t hard data to prove that. The mistake was mine, not the author’s.
      But before dismissing this overall, it’s worth looking deeper into the numbers. While the rise in overall hate crimes from 2012 to 2013 was small, the jump the previous year was much larger (up from 207). The trend going back 5 or 6 years shows hate crimes targeting Muslims on the rise as well (though the sample size is too small to say much).
      More importantly, it’s worth listening when Muslims in our state like Abidi say they’re afraid and feel like they’re targets of hate. She’s not the only one, and her concerns aren’t baseless.
      — Editor

      1. I think it is quite a natural thing for the infidels to target muslims since this is a reaction to what muslims do when they practise their religion of jihad using infidels as their targets. This is a religious obligation for all muslims. Therefore, it is plain to see that the practise of islam violates the human rights of infidels to life, to live in safety and free of violence. It is astonishing that the Jews, a particular focus of hatred for muslims worldwide, is at 60%. In this light, islam should be banned as a danger to infidel society.

        1. @ Julean : I would be very interested in knowing source of your information because I am surprised by the details you are mentioning. Can you please quote references for the bases of your comments ?

          1. Julian is quoting anti-Islam and anti-Muslims Pamella Geller, Geert Wilders and Robert Spencer etc. He actually believes that everyone is dumb bigot like him in this digital-age, to blindly follow his (Julean) ignorant religious-bigotry.

  3. Everyone keeps saying Muslims are immigrants. I, along with Majority of Muslims in America are American born and raised. Arab, black, white, Latino, Chinese, Somalian, WHATEVER race you can think of…. There’s are Muslims from it. If someone told me to go back to my country….where do I go lol this IS my country

  4. @Muslimchick you did not name Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshi Muslims who are in majority in population in America than Arabs (the Muslim population of these three countries’ is highest than the Muslim population of all the Arab countries combined — from Middle-East to Northern Africa Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Morocco etc).

  5. Oh I don’t know. Maybe that’s because people are sick and tired of Muslims whining about OUR laws and way of life and sick of their cult religion? It’s a hate crime to support a cult that murders thousands of innocent people under a man made god. Allah and God are not the same.

    1. Wow… you didn’t leave any effort to show how much influence browsing anti-Islam websites have left on you…

      So McTrutherton please explain to me as to why have you (as a man) made a god out of Jesus (peace be upon Him) :-) Allah is an Arabic word for God – (perhaps you need to open up your bigot mind and stop browsing anti-Islam websites).

      1. Are you refuting the evidence that is produced on a daily basis, by muslims?

        Islam is an attack on Christianity, and the reason that you cite here, is the very reason why muslims are murdering Christians worldwide, because mahomet called Christians polytheists. Just shows that allah has faulty knowledge, as do all muslims.

        Muslims are also the main reason why the hate crimes against Jews is at 60% while muslims only 12%, just a little above the Christians who are 8%.

        Allah means “the god”, and can refer to any god. It is merely a title, while the God of Israel, the Torah, has a name, YHWH.

      2. I see my previous comment was deleted. Perhaps this one will make it since I think it patently unfair that a muslim is permitted to attack my religion, whilst I am not allowed to make a rebuttal.

        Islam attacks christianity, and your comment is proof of that, and is the root cause for muslim jihadists, who are merely emulating their prophet, to murder christians in the belief that they are polytheists, as the koran states.

        Should the OIC, gain its right to institute a global blasphemy law, then islam will have to be banned because it attacks all others, christians, jews and pagans as well as atheists, and these attacks originate from the koran and islamic writings.

        It sounds like you are the bigot here, along with mahomet, for exhibiting such intolerance of other people’s points of views and being allowed to vilify them too.

        To be anti-islam appears to be a rather healthy thing for infidels to do.

        1. Christian white radicals butchered 6 million Jews in their Christian majority Europe. Another Christian radical Serbia butchered thousands of Bosnian Muslims.

          Seems like Christians have love for mass genocide and killings… dropping nuclear bombs on innocent human lives — destroying and bombing countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Vietnam, Syria) all over the world. These Christian white radicals even butchered themselves during World War I and II, in millions of deaths.

          Your Christian ancestors ethnically cleansed Native Americans in USA, First Nation in Canada, Aboriginals in Australia and your Jewish cousins are doing it to Palestinians.

          Every hour of the day, white and black Christians all over America shoot each other dead.

          Clearly, it is Christian radicals who are threat to the humanity and world peace, as per the report from 2014, which placed Christian-majority USA a biggest threat to global peace.

        1. When there is nothing else to come up, let’s use uncivilized attacks by mixing “tardy”. Ignorant John’s way of arguing on the internet!

    2. I agree with you. Islamic practise that requires all muslims to wage jihad on infidels for the sake of expanding islam, is a violation of the human rights of all non muslims. This makes islam a crime against humanity.

      1. Only those infidels who “first” wage war against you or threaten your lives. Stop reading anti-Islam website; clearly you’re a bigot Christian!

  6. Maybe it would be wise to give whites a part of europe or the United states where their identities and culture is protected and preserved.. otherwise you are just prodding a sleeping lion

  7. Muslim immigration is a betrayal that will lead to conflict in the U.S. in a few generations. Too bad our politicians could t be bothered to learn about the history of Islam or read the Quran before they decided to pave the way toward this tragedy. Unfortunately these traitors will all be dead when our great grandchildren are being killed by the terrorism and conflict that follow Muslims everywhere they go in the world.

  8. Hello Mia,

    Call me a bad Jewish but I like to do my bit of research before I accept anything in mass media so I had a chance to read Quran for fact finding myself because there is so much going on on media and I was surprised with what I read. Most of the things were not clear for me so I contacted some unbiased scholars and I learned the Judaism, Christianity and Islam all 3 basically root from same stem. In fact weather we like to accept it or not because our religious clerics have polluted the original message so much for their own benefits are different times but The original message of Christ is only continuation of the message from Mosses and Mohammad’s message is continuation of both to the level of perfection. This is what I was told by a Rabi.

    The mention of Jehad in Islamic teachings is totally not in the context some paid agents market it to achieve some specific objectives. I couldn’t find any reference in Quraan where it says to attack on Christians or Jews or believers of any other religion in any form, racism is explicitly forbidden much more that our US law. On contrary Islam commands Muslims to provide full protection to all religions under its dominion so now I keep wondering where is the problem, the message is pure peace and submission so who is manufacturing this special breed of religious extremists to achieve some objective ?

    Now I am not talking about big conspiracies because I haven’t done any research on that however I recommend everyone to study and research before buying an opinion paid media is selling.

    Check below link . . . .


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