U.S. President Donald Trump's viral Islamophobic tweets appear to have a disturbing real-world effect on anti-Muslim hate crimes.
A study, recently published by researchers at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, revealed that Trump's anti-Muslim tweets were a reliable predictor of the level of attacks against Muslims during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, and onward into the first few months following his election.
When you look at a chart of the president's Islamophobic social media posts, the correlation with spikes in anti-Muslim hate crime is very clear.
Carlo Schwarz, a doctoral student who worked on the study, told The Daily Beast that the research isn't necessarily saying Trump caused the hate crimes.
“But what we think is interesting is that Trump’s tweets and hate crime only appear to be correlated after the start of his presidential run. It is also interesting that this correlation seems to be driven by areas with many Twitter users," he said.
The study used the FBI’s record of hate crimes through 2016 and compared the data to Trump's twitter feed.
"Trump’s Muslim tweets alone predict more than 20 percent of the variation in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the same week," the research explains.
Trump's anti-Muslim posts also stand out compared to his other tweets attacking minority groups. Only the Islamophobic tweets appear to have a strong correlation with an increase in anti-Muslim hate crime.
Coincidence or connection?
"These correlations are consistent with at least two possible explanations," the study argues. "One is that Donald Trump became more reactive to US-wide anti-Muslim sentiments. Another possibility is that Trump’s tweets themselves contribute to a climate that enables hate crimes."
One thing is certain, anti-Muslim hate crimes rose in the U.S. prior to, during and after the 2016 election. A report by CNN released last August calculated that an average of nine mosques in the country had been attacked every month in 2017, or at least two per week. In total, there were 63 publicly reported mosque attacks spanning more than 26 states at the time the report was published.
This was also an increase over 2016. According to data reported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 46 mosque attacks occurred over the same time period the previous year.
A startling rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes
FBI statistics also reveal that anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by 67 percent in 2015 (prior to the U.S. election). And the number of anti-Muslim hate groups actually tripled in the U.S. from 2015 to 2016 – a surge of 197 percent – according to a February report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The author of the SPLC report, Mark Potok, pointed fingers at President Trump, as well as other right-wing pundits and politicians, for energizing hate groups and White supremacist organizations.
"Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man's country," Potok said. He continued, saying that the leap in the number of anti-Muslim groups is not surprising due to "the unrelenting propaganda of a growing circle of well-paid ideologues".
A survey done last year by Pew Research Center also found that U.S. adults hold the most negative views toward Muslims compared to followers of other major religions.
Government sanction oppression of Muslims?
Perhaps even more startling is the apparent increase in government-sanctioned oppression of Muslims. In just the first 100 days of Trump's presidency, Islamophobic incidents at U.S. borders rose by 1,035 percent.
According to preliminary data released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), 193 incidents involving U.S. Customs and Borders Protection were recorded from January to March of 2017, up from just 17 cases during the same period last year. Of the 193, 181 were recorded after Trump's attempted "Muslim ban," which was signed on Jan. 27 of last year.
According to the new research from the University of Warwick, the spike in anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes appears to have a strong connection to Trump and his tweets.
"With the start of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign on June, 16th 2015 ... we observe a disproportional increase in the number of hate crimes in those counties where many people use Twitter," the report says.