Chicago Tribune: Pepe’s apologizes for harassment of Muslim teens by man at restaurant

On June 8 the Chicago Tribune reports:

“The encounter comes amid an upswing in hate crimes against Muslims nationwide. Annual data published by the FBI tallied 5,850 hate crime incidents nationally in 2015, up 6 percent from 2014, with the sharpest rise in attacks against Muslims and transgender people. Most notably, last month in Portland, Ore., three men were stabbed — two fatally — when they tried to come to the aid of two Muslim teens being harassed on a train.

Many blame the current political environment for stoking anti-Muslim sentiments. Critics point to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies and his campaign call for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” as ways he has emboldened anti-Muslim attackers.

A group called ACT for America has scheduled a series of rallies on Saturday nationwide, including one in downtown Chicago, dubbed the Chicago March Against Sharia, to spread the message that Islamic law “is incompatible with our Constitution and with American values,” according the group’s website. The Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center have dubbed ACT for America an anti-Muslim extremist group.

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of Chicago’s Council on American Islamic Relations, said the group is part of a larger “anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-minority” movement. Not recognizing that and allowing its rhetoric to pass as a form of patriotism could fuel more harassment and violence, he said.

Rehab called Monday’s altercation another incidence of “hate lashes.”

“This is not divorced from hate crimes, which are already on the rise,” Rehab said. “We can no longer look at this as a force of nature. At what point do we make the connection? We need to move fast to do so.”

He attributes part of the problem to rancorous political rhetoric.

“There are a lot of people who share these sentiments but think better than to express them in public,” Rehab said. “But when you see their role models or elected officials give them a green light that it’s OK to come out of the woodwork, they just let it all out. It’s not that it wasn’t there before, but it was self-censored, managed.”

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