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The O.C. Saw A Three-Fold Increase In Hate Incidents Against Muslims

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Muslims pray during a morning prayer at the Los Angeles Convention Center. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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The Orange County Human Relations Commission released a report on Thursday that says, among other things, that hate incidents against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim (like Sikhs) have jumped from 14 in 2014 to 43 in 2015, and that hate crimes against the LGBT community have risen from 8 to 11. Sikhs are not Muslim, though there is a common misperception that they are.

A hate crime is described as a criminal act that is committed with regards to the victim's gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, faith, sexual orientation, and disability. These crimes may include hateful graffiti, or a violent assault. A hate incident, on the other hand, is described as an act that is not technically illegal, but espouses bias against a person based on the aforementioned characteristics. Such acts may include distributing racist fliers, which is defended by the First Amendment.

Rusty Kennedy, CEO of the commission, told KPCC that most of the reported hate incidents against Muslims involved hate mail, emails and phone calls to the Council on American-Islamic Relations' office in Anaheim. Here in L.A., Shahla Kamrani, who works at the IMAN Foundation, told LAist that while the center has received "threats" and "jokes making fun of our religion" on occasion on the phone, she doesn't think there has been a recent uptick in such incidences in L.A. Though, she adds, there is concern that current political climate may exacerbate matters. "There is definitely concerns regarding [Donald Trump's] beliefs and his political issues. But it's not just an attack on our religion. It's against all humanity. Against [Hispanics]. Against people of color. Against women."

Kennedy expressed a similar believe in saying that, as LGBT rights become more visible in the national political sphere, "there are people on the fringes who seize those opportunities to vilify and dehumanize those communities."

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Among the hate incidents mentioned in the report, there was one case when residents woke up to find fliers urging them to join the "Orange County KKK" and to not listen to "lies from the Jewish media" (this is not an uncommon incident, apparently). In another case, the owner of an Islamic clothing store found on her doorstep a Quran filled with bullet-holes. As harrowing as these cases may seem, they're still regarded as technically hate incidents, not hate crimes.

The Muslim and LGBT communities aren't the only ones afflicted. The reported also noted that 7 hate crimes were committed against the Jewish community in 2015, while 6 were reported in 2014. And there were 3 hate crimes against Asian and Pacific Islanders in both 2014 and 2015. African Americans were the victims of 7 reported hate crimes in 2015, a decrease from 11 in 2014.

For victims of hate crimes and hate incidents, the commission advises them to, aside from contacting the authorities, to also keep all evidence intact, and to try document the incident through pictures and video.