Review Category : National News

Muslim-Americans Find Hope in US Civil Rights Era

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A Muslim woman in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was allegedly threatened by a man who said he would set her on fire with a lighter if she didn’t remove her religious head covering, or hijab.

Another Muslim woman in Columbus, Ohio, reported to police that a man verbally attacked her and her family while they were stopped at a traffic light, shouting, “Go back to your f—— country.”

Other adherents to Islam in the U.S. have reported having their headscarves ripped off or racial slurs hurled at them in the days since the Nov. 8 election of Donald Trump. All of these instances are among more than 200 bias incidents — mostly against blacks, immigrants and Muslims — reported over the past week by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Trump said on Sunday that he was surprised and saddened to hear about hate crimes, racial slurs and threats reportedly made by some of his supporters since the election and told them to “stop it.”

“I am so saddened to hear that,” the president-elect said in an interview Sunday with CBS News’ 60 Minutes. He also said of the many protesting against him since his election that they should not be “afraid” of his presidency.

But anti-discrimination advocates say Trump’s positions as a candidate have emboldened some who are prejudiced against Muslims to voice or act out their biases.

On the campaign trail, Trump called for banning all Muslims from entering the U.S. His recent appointment of conservative firebrand and former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor has also drawn heated criticism from anti-discrimination and Muslim groups.

Nevertheless, some Muslim political and community activists told ABC News that they see Trump’s election as an opportunity for greater political participation by the 1 percent of Americans who are Muslim and that they look to African-Americans’ civil rights struggles as a model.

“Donald Trump is who he is, and he’s our president. I’m not going to say he’s not my president. He is my president,” said Mirriam Seddiq, a Virginia-based criminal defense attorney and founder of the American Muslim Women Political Action Committee, which launched earlier this year. “The things we have to worry about really have to go beyond our own fears of being singled out by this administration.”

“There have been so many people fighting this fight against injustice … far, far longer than we have as a group,” Seddiq said. “You can take off a hijab. Black people can’t take off their skin.”

“I don’t want to be the group that as soon as somebody targets us, we run and hide,” she said.

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations agrees that “people need to step up their civic participation. I think Trump was elected because a lot of people stayed home.”

But Hooper also said it is equally important that American Muslims continue to report bias incidents as a way of asserting their rights.

“You stand up for yourself, you stand up for your faith, you stand up for social justice and civil rights, and you let people know what’s actually going on on the ground,” he said.

Like Seddiq, Hooper said bias against Muslims must be viewed alongside the history of discrimination against other minorities including African-Americans and Jews.

“It’s the same phenomenon that has to be challenged,” he said.

But seeing the need for Muslims to become more politically active doesn’t mean many don’t feel fear, some activists said.

A spike in hate crimes before the election

Even before the election, the U.S. was seeing a spike in hate crimes against Muslims.

Hate crimes — which the FBI defines as any crime such as assault or vandalism with the added element of bias — targeting Muslims surged 67 percent last year, from 154 incidents in 2014 to 257 in 2015, the second highest number on record since 1992 when the U.S. began tracking these crimes, according to the latest statistics published Monday by the FBI.

Then there are the slurs that may not rise to the level of a crime.

Asma Inge Hanif, founder of Muslimat Al Nisaa, a Baltimore-area shelter for Muslim women seeking refuge from violence, extremism and religious persecution, said many women who have come to her shelter have recounted being harassed about their hijabs in recent months and told to “take that rag off.”

Hanif, like others who spoke to ABC News for this story, likened the experience of Muslims in the U.S. today to discrimination against African-Americans.

Hanif is African-American, a convert to Islam, and among the third of all U.S. Muslims who are black, according to Pew’s 2015 Religious Landscape Study.

“If someone can attack you based on the color of your skin, and now someone can attack you because you’re Muslim, you have no idea how angry someone can be or what they would actually do. That’s why there’s a whole element of fear,” Hanif said.

“It’s reminiscent of being in the South and a black man running,” Hanif said. “You could be running, and someone would see you and say, ‘You must be guilty,’ because you were running. And now the women are feeling similar: ‘You must be guilty because you are Muslim.’”

She hopes that the divisive presidential election and Trump’s victory will raise awareness among light-skinned Muslims of the need to see themselves as part of a larger fight for civil rights.

“Now they realize we need to join with those who have already gone through this and learn from their experience,” Hanif said.

“The main thing African-Americans did not do is we did not give up … I would say the same thing to the Muslims who are here, to not give up,” Hanif said.

Personal experience with harassment, but holding hope

Seddiq, the attorney and political-action committee founder, said she personally experienced harassment by Trump supporters in the past week.

She was in New York on election night hoping to celebrate a historic win for Hillary Clinton, whom Seddiq’s PAC had endorsed. After she and a friend left Clinton’s election watch party, they stumbled upon a local restaurant where, it turned out, a group of young, white men were cheering as states were called in Trump’s favor.

Some of the men turned to Seddiq and accosted her, telling her she should be deported, she said.

“I can’t take these people seriously. If comes from such a deep place of ignorance,” she said, adding that she thinks that to some of Trump’s supporters the president-elect “represents masculinity, and [the feeling] that woman are to blame for every problem they’ve ever had.”

Seddiq said that she’s also recently received death threats in her inbox, sparked by a post on a conservative aggregator site that linked to one of her PAC’s press releases containing names and phone numbers of Seddiq and her colleagues.

Still, Seddiq said it’s important to keep such experiences in perspective.

“I think that for Muslims to be afraid, or to shirk responsibility, or to shrink, or act like victims right now, it’s a little bit embarrassing for me to feel that way,” she said. “This is not just about Donald Trump. The only way we can make sure we don’t get left behind is to be actively involved in the political process.”

She and her PAC are already making a list of potential candidates, Muslim and not, who could run in the 2018 midterm elections, “with an eye of course on 2020,” she said.

“That’s what our faith tells us to do — not to despair,” Seddiq said. “All things that befall a believer are good. We need to take those words to heart.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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‘Miracle on the Hudson’ Survivor Gives Back to Families in Need on Thanksgiving

Casey Jones(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — For the seventh consecutive year, a Florida man is donating Thanksgiving turkeys to less fortunate families after being inspired by his own “Miracle on the Hudson” survival story.

Casey Jones, 56 of Jacksonville, was aboard US Airways Flight 1549 on Jan. 15, 2009, when it made an emergency landing in the Hudson River.

“The reason it was important for me is because at the end of the day of the plane crash I looked in the mirror at the hotel and the face staring back at me was that of a homeless person,” Jones told ABC News. “Everything I was wearing was given to me, I had a cut in my head from hitting the tray table on impact, my hair was wet from falling in the river. It gave me a compassion for the homeless that I never would have had. The gift I received that day was that of compassion.”

In 2010, Jones was on his way to a public speaking event when he heard on the radio that the Salvation Army had not received enough turkeys that year to feed poor families. Soon after, he launched the first “Miracle on the Hudson” turkey drive — collecting 140 turkeys for families in need. Last year, he raised enough money for 315 turkeys and has helped feed about 1,500 families to date, he said.

“This year, we might set a record,” Jones said. “We might raise money for 350 [families] based on where we’re at. By doing this, people can have the same impact. It’s just the click of a button. When thy sit down and have Thanksgiving dinner, they know others are having a great meal just like them because of their efforts. No matter how big or small, that’s huge.”

Before the holiday, Jones sends out an email to friends requesting donations.

“Thirty dollars buys two turkeys and makes a difference in the lives of those families,” he wrote in the message. “If you choose not to give, no problem. I only ask that you keep those in need in your thoughts and prayers to overcome the challenges they face each day.”

Jones is about $200 shy of his $5,000 goal on the “Miracle on the Hudson Turkey Drive” GoFundMe page.

Every penny raised by community members goes toward the turkeys, which will be brought for the Salvation Army of Northeast Florida and distributed to local families, Jones said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Wildfires Scorch, Smother Southeastern States

iStock/Thinkstock(RALEIGH, N.C.) — Several dozen large wildfires are scorching the southeastern part of the country, sending a cover of thick smoke into the air that is making it hazardous for people in some areas to do any outdoor activity.

North Carolina is the hardest hit state, with at least 15 active fires that have destroyed more than 45,000 acres of forest. Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia are also battling large active blazes.

There are more than 40 active large fires currently burning in the U.S., mostly in the southeast, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“Dense smoke plumes are creating very unhealthy breathing conditions,” the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality reported on Tuesday, in an air quality alert for the western part of the state.

Concentrations of fine particulates “may approach or exceed very unhealthy standards,” the Dept. said. “Everyone is likely to be affected, even those in good health. Therefore, everyone is advised to avoid all outdoor exertion.”

Air quality warnings were also issued in South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia.

In Georgia, wind and dry conditions pushed the Rough Ridge fire in the northern part of the state past 20,000 acres. The blaze is growing by more than a half-mile every day. Smoky conditions have shown up in Atlanta, creating a haze that has draped the city for the past several days.

The blazes are also putting a strain on state budgets. North Carolina has spent more than $1 million on efforts around at least four blazes, including one that has cost $4.7 million to fight and is just over 40 percent contained.

Georgia has spent $3.9 million fighting the Rough Ridge wildfire that is only 20 percent contained.

North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky have each declared a state of emergency as more than 5,000 firefighters and support staff from around the nation have been deployed to suppress the fires. Arson as well as drought and high winds is being blamed for the unusual concentration of blazes in that part of the country.

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Judge Orders “Making a Murderer” Subject Brendan Dassey’s Release

iStock/Thinkstock(MADISON, Wis.) — A judge has granted Brendan Dassey’s motion to be released from prison while court proceedings in his case continue.

According to paperwork obtained by ABC News, U.S. Magistrate Judge William E. Duffin has ordered the Making a Murderer subject to be freed, with a number of restrictions placed on him in the meantime.

The conditions by which Dassey must abide include being available for any home visit deemed necessary by the United States Probation Office, providing a phone number where he may be reached and a home address, and staying within the Eastern District of Wisconsin. He is also ordered to have no contact with his uncle and co-defendant, Steven Avery.

However, after the motion was filed, a statement was posted to the Wisconsin Department of Justice website, stating that Attorney General Brad Schimel “intends to file an emergency motion in the Seventh Circuit seeking a stay of this release order.”

Dassey, 26, was accused as a teenager, along with Avery, of murdering Teresa Halbach in 2005. Both were convicted in 2007, and Dassey was sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was overturned in August after a judge said in court documents obtained by ABC News that investigators’ four-hour interrogation was littered with leading statements and “false promises.”

The court documents also noted that Dassey was only 16 at the time of his confession with a “below average intellectual ability,” and lacked having “the benefit of an adult present to look out for his interests.”

The decision to overturn Dassey’s conviction was later appealed and court proceedings are ongoing.

Lauren Nirider, Dassey’s attorney, told ABC News: “We’re over the moon — Brendan and his mother have spent 10 Thanksgivings apart and the prospect of spending the next one together … it’s incredible we’re just so grateful.”

She added: “We hope to have Brendan home by Thanksgiving if not sooner.”

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Two More Churches Vandalized with Trump, Racist Graffiti

iStock/Thinkstock(BEANBLOSSOM, Ind.) — At least two more churches have been vandalized with what appears to be pro-Donald Trump racist graffiti, according to the houses of worship.

One of the churches, St. David’s Episcopal, in Beanblossom, Ind., was targeted sometime Saturday, a Facebook post from the church says.

“Three tags were painted on the outside of the church,” the post says, including “Heil Trump” and a swastika.

“We are disappointed that our safe haven has been vandalized but will not let the actions of a few damper our love of Christ and the world,” the statement says. “We will continue to live out our beliefs and acceptance of all people and respecting the dignity of every human being. We pray for the perpetrators as well as those who the derogatory marks were directed at.”

Rev. Kelsey Hutto said “we must be doing something right,” according to the Indianapolis Star. “We stated one time that doing the right thing was not always the popular thing. We were targeted for a reason, and in our mind it was for a good reason.”

And in a statement, Indianapolis Bishop Cate Waynick said the tone of the election has “emboldened” some.

“We do not know who is responsible for the vandalism,” Waynick said in the statement. “What we do know is that the kind of language used during the recent Presidential campaign has emboldened some people to become openly abusive and insulting. Our option as faithful people is to be sure we don’t respond in kind.”

Separately, in an Episcopal church in Silver Spring, Md., a sign advertising the Spanish-language mass was vandalized with “Trump Nation, Whites Only,” according to the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, DC.

“I am heartsick, and can only imagine how the people of Our Saviour, one of the most culturally diverse parishes in the diocese, feel,” Bishop Marian Budde said in the Facebook post.

Silver Spring, MD Our Saviour Episcopal Church Spanish-speaking service vandalized: “Trump Nation – No Whites” pic.twitter.com/PsXqaB7CUJ

— Gene Robinson (@BishopGRobinson) November 13, 2016

More than 200 incidents of reported harassment and intimidation have been reported since Election Day, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Earlier this month, a black church in Mississippi was vandalized with “Vote Trump” and burned.

“This matter is being investigated as a hate crime,” Greenville Mayor Errick Simmons said in a statement at the time. “This act is a direct assault of people’s right to freely worship. Moreover, this matter is being investigated with all deliberate speed and we will not rest until the culprit is found and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Trump has been criticized for not immediately disavowing the support of former KKK grand wizard David Duke, although he later did so. He also has been criticized for choosing former Breitbart chief and alt-right hero Steve Bannon as his chief strategist.

Trump, for his part, has said he is the “least racist” person and, when questioned about the heated rhetoric that has flared up around the campaign, he told CBS News that he would tell perpetrators to “stop it.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes Up 67%, FBI Says

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Hate crimes in the United States ticked back up in 2015, after a 20-year low the year before, fueled in part by a 67 percent increase in crimes against Muslims, according to an FBI report released Monday.

Crimes against religious groups overall were up by 23 percent since 2014 and anti-black, white and LGBT incidents were all up last year as well. Most incidents — nearly 30 percent — in 2015 were anti-black crimes, the data show.

Crimes ran the gamut from simple assault to murder and rape.

In 2015, there were 257 anti-Muslim hate crimes, compared to 154 the year before, the data show. Overall hate crimes were up just under 7 percent, to 5,850 reported incidents.

The FBI publishes an annual compilation of bias-motivated incidents throughout the nation and the latest report was based on data submitted by 14,997 law enforcement agencies across the nation.

This was the first year that anti-Arab hate crime was recorded in the FBI numbers. There were 37 incidents and 48 victims. It was also the first year that crimes against Mormons, Sikhs, Buddhists, Eastern-Orthodox and Jehovah’s witnesses were broken down.

The rise of hate crimes doesn’t come as a surprise to John Cohen, an ABC News contributor and a professor at Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, as well as a former Department of Homeland Security official.

The numbers validate two trends that have emerged in the past couple of years, said Cohen. First, the country has become increasingly polarized and there has been a rise in the lack of willingness to engage in healthy discussions with people who may have different opinions, said Cohen. This polarization has been along political, racial and religious lines, said Cohen.

In 2015, of the 7,121 victims (there may be more than one victim per incident) targeted for a “single-bias,” rather than multiple factors, 59.2 percent were targeted because of race, ethnicity or ancestry bias. Nearly 20 percent were targeted over religion and 18 percent were victimized because of sexual orientation, the FBI found.

Cohen also argues that there has been an increased willingness of individuals to use violence to take action against a perceived grievance.

This has manifested in mass casualty incidents, assaults and in this case, hate crimes.

“At the end of the day, as our ability to have healthy public discourse had eroded, more and more we are seeing people turn to violence or destructive behavior in furtherance of an ideological agenda,” said Cohen.

Hate crimes against Muslims haven’t been this high since 2001, when there were 481 incidents.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations(CAIR)said that the FBI numbers track with its own reporting on anti-Mosque incidents, which include hate crimes as well as harassment, intimidation and zoning issues. The number of incidents last year were “off the charts,” said Corey Saylor, CAIR Director of the Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia.

There are usually one to two incidents a month, but in November and December of last year there were 17 incidents each.

He attributes this to the “toxic rhetoric coming out of the election campaign.”

While the FBI numbers don’t cover 2016, there have been more than 200 reports of hate-based intimidation and harassment since Election Day, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The civil rights organization said it tallied 201 incidents nationwide between Election Day and Friday evening, based on direct submissions and reports on social media as well as in the news.

While 2015 was the worst year on record since CAIR began tracking the numbers, 2016 is set to surpass it.

Cohen said the overall 2016 FBI numbers will likely reflect an increase as well.

Social media is also playing a role in emboldening violent behavior, according to Cohen.

There have always been people with extreme views, but communications used to be limited to the physical world. Now people with extremist views can find like-minded individuals online and seek validation for their violent behavior.

Of the 5,493 known offenders, 48.4 percent were white, and 24.3 percent were black or African-American, according to the FBI. Race was unknown for 16.2 percent and other races accounted for the remaining known offenders.

The FBI says the largest portion of hate crimes — 31.5 percent — took place in or near the home. About 17 percent occurred on highways, roads, alleys, streets or sidewalks; 8.3 percent occurred at schools or colleges; 5.6 percent took place in parking lots or garages; and 4.4 percent took place in churches, synagogues, temples or mosques.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Autopsy Shows Keith Lamont Scott Was Shot in Back

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — The man who was killed by police in Charlotte, North Carolina, in September was shot once in the back, an autopsy report shows.

Keith Lamont Scott’s shooting, captured on video, sparked days of protests in the city after his family said he was unarmed.

The autopsy said that in addition to the shot to the back, another shot to the abdomen caused his death.

Police, however, maintained that he had a handgun and Chief Kerr Putney said at the time said he would release evidence that would constitute “indisputable evidence” supporting that.

According to Putney, officers said they saw a weapon and marijuana in Scott’s car while they were doing surveillance for an unrelated warrant.

The chief said Scott ignored repeated commands to drop the weapon.

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360 Video of Subway Notes Shows New Yorkers’ Political Frustration

Adam Rivera/ABC News(NEW YORK) — In cities across the U.S., protesters have taken to the streets to show their discontent with the result of the presidential election.

However, underground in New York City, a different kind of protest is taking place, with commuters posting sticky notes along a subway tunnel’s walls to express their thoughts, opinions and hopes for the future of this country.

Explore in this 360 video by dragging the video with your mouse or watch on mobile with the Facebook app.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Anti-Trump Protests Spread to Democratic Leadership with Sit-In at Schumer’s DC Office

Mark Makela/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Protests continued throughout the U.S. on the sixth consecutive day following Donald Trump’s surprise electoral victory, targeting both the president-elect’s anti-immigration policies and factions of white supremacist support, as well as the leadership of Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, who is widely expected to be elected Senate minority leader to replace outgoing Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

Hundreds of high school students held a walkout in East Los Angeles, California, a diverse neighborhood with a large Hispanic population, demanding protection for the people they said were being targeted by Trump’s supporters in the wake of his election. High school students from Portland, Oregon, and Silver Spring, Maryland, also staged walkouts Monday, protesting Trump’s words and policies.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., at least 40 protesters commandeered Sen. Schumer’s office, according to Waleed Shahid, a spokesperson for #AllofUs, the group that staged the sit-in.

Shahid said that #AllofUs is composed of young men and women who participated in the Occupy Wall Street protests in 2011, as well as Black Lives Matter, climate activists, and organizers from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president. He said the protesters were concerned about Democrats collaborating with Trump, citing Schumer’s ties to Wall Street as evidence that he was part of the same party establishment that lost the election to Trump.

Seventeen protesters were arrested in the hallway to Schumer’s office Monday, according to Eva Malecki, the communications director for the U.S. Capitol Police. They were charged with a misdemeanor offense of “crowding, obstructing and incommoding,” Malecki said.

Monday’s protests are building off a wave of rallies over the weekend, including the #HeretoStay march that began at Columbus Circle in Manhattan yesterday and then moved to Trump Tower, speaking out against the president-elect’s hard-line anti-immigration policies.

The #HeretoStay rally featured some participants whose families could be torn apart if Trump is able to enact widespread deportations once in office. Trump vowed to deport millions of undocumented immigrants from the U.S. in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday, saying that as many as 3 million people could be removed.

Shahid, who is a Muslim, told ABC News that he believed Trump won the election because of the “massive corporate influence” in the Democratic Party, which he said was “negotiating away the future of young people.” He said that the protesters at the sit-in wanted a change in party leadership to ensure a strong opposition to Trump’s policies, citing Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Keith Ellison as examples.

Shahid added that his group was protesting both Trump and the establishment wing of the Democratic Party to help prevent any potential collusion between them.

“I’d rather go to jail than sign my name to a Muslim registry,” he said, referring to a proposal Trump announced in November 2015 involving implementing a database of Muslim Americans to prevent terrorism.

Regarding his identity as a Muslim, Shahid said he feels frightened and he has been working on “adrenaline and no sleep” since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.

“A lot of people in my family are really scared right now,” he said.

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PBS Anchor Gwen Ifill Dies at 61

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Longtime PBS journalist Gwen Ifill has passed away following a battle with cancer, PBS said in a statement. She was 61.

“Gwen was one of America’s leading lights in journalism and a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation,” PBS President Paula Kerger said in a statement. “She often said that her job was to bring light rather than heat to issues of importance to our society. Gwen did this with grace and a steadfast commitment to excellence.”

Ifill, who co-hosted “PBS NewsHour” and moderated “Washington Week,” joined PBS in 1999 after stints at The New York Times, Washington Post and NBC. She was also a noted debate moderator, having presided over the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates.

Since the news of her death broke, condolences — from politicians, celebrities, and fellow journalists — have poured in on Twitter.

It is with heavy hearts that we share that our dear friend and beloved colleague Gwen Ifill has passed away. https://t.co/9iVlSm1JmZ

— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) November 14, 2016

Keenly aware of her role as a women of color in media, Ifill once told The New York Times, “When I was a little girl watching programs like this — because that’s the kind of nerdy family we were — I would look up and not see anyone who looked like me in any way. No women. No people of color.

“I’m very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that’s perfectly normal — that it won’t seem like any big breakthrough at all,” she added.

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