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War between Israel and Hamas leads to increase in hate crimes around the world

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WWar in the Middle East is sparking violence against Muslim and Jewish communities around the world.

Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy, was fatally stabbed over the weekend in Plainfield Township, Illinois. The boy’s mother was also seriously injured in the attack carried out by their landlord, with local authorities confirming that the two men were “targeted by the suspect due to their Muslim affiliation and the ongoing conflict in the Middle East involving the Hamas and the Israelis.” The attack is being investigated as a hate crime.

Following the death, Palestinian and Muslim leaders condemned media coverage of the war and the Palestinian people.

“Let’s be clear: this is directly linked to the dehumanization of Palestinians that was authorized last week by our media, by our elected officials who did not have the moral compass and did not have the courage to call for something as simple as de-escalation and peace,” said Illinois State Rep. Abdelnasser Rashid, the first Palestinian American elected to the state’s general assembly.

“(Wadea) loved everyone,” Ahmed Rehab, executive director of CAIR-Chicago, said at a news conference. “He has no idea of ​​the larger problems happening in the world, but he has been made to pay for it. »

American police have been on high alert for threats against Muslim and Jewish communities since the surprise Hamas attack on October 7. The FBI reported an increase in threats against Muslim and Jewish communities in a call with reporters, although the bureau declined to provide information. precise numbers. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the war could inspire violence in the United States, according to the New York Times. Times.

Around the world, geopolitical conflicts often lead to a rise in hatred against affected communities at the local level, experts tell TIME. “When there is a conflict like this, we almost always see an increase in incidents against the communities involved in the conflict,” says Wendy Via, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “People see it on the news and it’s kind of the proof they needed to fuel their hatred and act on it.”

Learn more: How peace and prosperity in the Middle East can still be achieved

Growing conflicts

In the United States, advocacy groups have reported increased threats of violence and harassment against Palestinian, Jewish and Muslim communities.

Local chapters of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group, reported instances of Islamophobia in the days after the war began, including two alleged assaults in Brooklyn, Wash. from New York, and an individual who pointed a gun at him. a crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators in front of the Pennsylvania state capitol.

And in New Jersey, Rania Mustafa, executive director of the Palestinian American Community Center, told ABC7 New York that many members of her community have recently faced a wave of growing harassment.

The Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked cases of anti-Semitism in the United States since 1979, has reported more than 100 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since October 7, including attacks in San Diego, California and New York . A 19-year-old has been charged with a hate crime after allegedly attacking a Columbia University student who was hanging posters on campus in support of Israel.

Learn more: Why Egypt’s border with Gaza is sealed

It is impossible to know the exact number of incidents that occurred in the United States last week. Hate crimes in the country are often vastly underestimated because legal definitions vary by state and police officers often lack training on how to identify hate crimes. (About 88% of cities report no hate crime data, according to Axios.)

Additionally, hateful actions — like vandalizing a place of worship or derogatory signs — can be difficult to track and might go unreported, says Via, who notes that they always harm targeted communities.

“It is simply impossible to count or get an accurate record of all these types of incidents which have surely increased,” Via explains. “This is intended to intimidate and sow fear and silence these communities.”

An ultra-Orthodox Jew walks past a synagogue in north London, October 13, 2023. The British government on Thursday announced an additional £3 million ($3.7 million) in funding to help protect the Jewish community from anti-Semitic attacks, after a 400% increase in the number of people. incidents.Daniel Leal—AFP/Getty Images

Hate online

Hate crimes are also on the rise outside the United States. On October 13, the London Metropolitan Police reported a significant increase in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks. French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said more than 20 people had been arrested in connection with anti-Semitic incidents in recent days.

According to data collected by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, 4chan, the anonymous and unregulated online messaging forum, saw a 479% increase in the use of explicit anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim slurs, as well as There were calls to kill both groups between October 6 and October 8.

Via says hateful and unregulated content online can also translate into real risk offline. “If a person is inclined to be violent, it leads them there, unlike our systems set up to stop it,” Via explains.

X (formerly Twitter) and Meta have faced pressure from the EU to better combat war-related misinformation on their platforms, but Via says they must impose stricter moderation to prevent the spread online hate.

Recent years have seen a harmful normalization of hateful and dehumanizing speech, Via explains.

“It is the ruling factions in the Middle East who are committing these acts, not the people. And that’s a distinction that more people using megaphones should make, very forcefully and very loudly.”

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