Hate crime monitor says sharp increase has been fuelled by Trump’s 'incendiary rhetoric' and resurgence of white nationalism
The number of anti-Muslim groups in the US nearly tripled from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year, according to an annual census of hate and anti-foreigner groups compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a leading hate crime monitor.
In a report published on Wednesday, the SPLC said Donald Trump's successful campaign for the US presidency had energised the "radical right" and contributed to an overall net increase in the number of hate groups from 892 in 2015 to 917.
“2016 was an unprecedented year for hate,” said Mark Potok, senior fellow and editor of the SPLC's Intelligence Report magazine, highlighting the rise to influence of "white nationalist" activists such as Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist who formerly edited the far-right Breitbart News website.
“The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists. In Steve Bannon, these extremists think they finally have an ally who has the president's ear.”
An online map showing anti-Muslim hate groups in the US (Southern Law Poverty Center)
The SPLC said the overall number of hate groups likely understated the real level of organised hate in the US, as growing numbers of extremists were operating online and not formally affiliated with hate groups.
But it did record a fall in the number of organised anti-government armed militia groups, which it suggested may be due to the mainstreaming of far-right political ideas and ideologies previously confined to the political fringes.
The report said that the dramatic increase in groups with a specific anti-Muslim agenda had been "fuelled by Trump’s incendiary rhetoric, including his campaign pledge to bar Muslims from entering the United States, as well as anger over terrorist attacks such as the June massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando".
The magazine highlighted details of an alleged plot by three members of a group called the Kansas Security Force to blow up an apartment building housing more than 100 Somali-born Muslim immigrants and a mosque which was reported to have been planned for the day after last November's election.
Asked by the New York Times about his support among far-right groups in November, Trump said: "I disavow and condemn them."
The SPLC said that the growth had also been accompanied by an increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims. In a report in November, the SPLC said that nearly 900 incidents of hate and intolerance were recorded across the US in the days following Trump's election.
It also cited an arson attack on a mosque in Victoria, Texas, just hours after Trump's inauguration last month.
Trump's presidency has sparked a wave of protests by civil liberties campaigners, with many taking to the streets to protest on the day of his inauguration and subsequently in opposition to a temporary ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries entering the US.