The number of hate groups in the U.S reached a record high in 2018, a non-profit group said in an annual report on hate activities while blaming it on President Donald Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which has tracked hate groups since 1971, found there were 1,020 operating in the U.S. last year, a 7 percent increase from 954 recorded in 2017. Last year's numbers broke the 1,018 records set in 2011, marking the fourth consecutive year of growth. The report also underlined that groups used the internet to grow and recruit. The SPLC defines hate groups as organizations with beliefs or practices that demonize a class of people.
"The numbers tell a striking story, that this president is not simply a polarizing figure but a radicalizing one," said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, which released the new numbers. "Rather than trying to tamp down the hate, as presidents of both parties have done, President Trump elevates it, with both his rhetoric and his policies."
Last year, at least 40 people were reportedly killed by those motivated by hate groups. The non-profit said the growth of hate groups appeared to be prompting some who share their ideologies to take violent action. As an example, it cited Robert Bowers, who is accused of killing 11 worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October while reportedly shouting "All Jews must die."
Trump's statements echoed by hate groups included describing immigrants as "invaders," calling for a Muslim ban and attacking African nations.
Anti-Muslim sentiments are growing in the U.S., as Muslims have become the target of increasing hostility since Donald Trump's election. Based on research conducted by the New America Foundation and the American Muslim Institution, two in five Americans think that Islam is not compatible with the country's values. Among Republicans, the percentage is higher with 71 percent of them feeling uncomfortable with Islam. About 56 percent of Republicans also admitted they would be concerned if a mosque was built in their neighborhood, the study revealed.
According to a leading Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. rose 91 percent in the first half of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016. The most frequent type of incidents documented by CAIR in the second quarter of 2017 involved harassment, defined as a non-violent or non-threatening incident. The second most common type of bias incidents were hate crimes and involved physical violence or property damage. CAIR said the most prevalent trigger for anti-Muslim bias incidents in 2017 remains the victim's ethnicity or national origin, accounting for 32 percent of the total.