The Muslim population of the United States surpassed 3.5 million in 2015, according to demographic projections compiled by the Pew Research Center. In percentage terms, Muslims currently comprise roughly 1% of the US population.
As in Europe, Islam was an ever-present topic in American newspaper headlines during 2015. Most news items involved terrorism-related issues — including many cases of lone-wolf terrorists — closely followed by articles about Muslim integration and assimilation. [or lack thereof]
January 6. Officials at the Rocky Heights Middle School in Littleton, Colorado, ignited controversy when they told female students to dress according to Sharia law while visiting a mosque during a field trip. Peter Boyles, a radio talk show host in Denver, said: “Public schools are forbidden from holding girls to different standards than boys. They’re holding these girls to a different standard, it’s a religious reason. Islam dictates many … repressive practices against women…. That’s their belief … but don’t apply it to public school kids.”
January 7. Hashim Hanif Ibn Abdul-Rasheed, a 41-year-old Muslim armed with two knives taped to his legs, attempted to buy a plane ticket at the Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. Abdul-Rasheed was shot after he lunged at a police officer. Police said his behavior was “consistent with someone who intended to hijack an aircraft.”
January 9. Abdalah Mohamed, a 19-year-old migrant from Kenya, was arrested after he threatened to kill the owner of a Jewish delicatessen in Portland, Oregon. Police said Mohamed entered the store asking for a single cigarette. When the owner replied that he did not sell individual cigarettes, Mohamed reportedly said: “I will blow up your store. I’m going to take care of you, you mother (redacted). I’ll call my people to take care of you to shoot you! I will blow up your store in the name of Allah, I will take care of people like you!”
January 12. ISIS sympathizers hacked the official Twitter account of the US Central Command, the Pentagon division in charge of the Middle East. One tweet sent from CENTCOM’s account stated: “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your backs.” Another tweet said: “ISIS is already here…. With Allah’s permission we are in CENTCOM now.”
January 13. Representative André Carson (D-Indiana), a convert to Islam, was appointed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Carson, who has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, is the first Muslim to sit on the committee.
January 14. Christopher Lee Cornell, a 20-year-old convert to Islam, was arrested in Cincinnati, Ohio, for plotting to “wage jihad” by attacking the US Capitol. Cornell and his accomplice, who was actually an FBI informant, planned to detonate pipe bombs and gun down lawmakers. Cornell, whose Muslim name is Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, had bought two M-15 rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition. He had also posted messages and videos espousing support for ISIS.
January 14. Shelton Thomas Bell, a 21-year-old convert to Islam from Jacksonville, Florida, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for attempting to provide material support to terrorists. According to court documents, Bell “conspired to train and prepare as a combatant for overseas violent jihad, then travel from Jacksonville to the Middle East for the ultimate purpose of providing the skills to terrorists, including members of Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen.”
As part of his training, Bell conducted a late-night “jihadi training mission” that involved destroying religious statues in a multi-denominational cemetery in Jacksonville. He also uploaded training and recruiting videos onto the Internet, including one in which he makes homemade pipe bombs and another in which he burns an America flag.
January 15. Carol Swain, a prominent professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, penned an op-ed in The Tennessean titled, “Charlie Hebdo attacks prove critics were right about Islam.” She wrote:
“What horrendous attack would finally convince us that Islam is not like other religions in the United States, that it poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration?
“More and more members of the PC [politically correct] crowd now acknowledge that Islam has absolutely nothing in common with Christianity….
“It becomes clearer every day that Islam is not just another religion to be accorded the respect given to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha’i and other world religions. The Jan. 7 terrorist attack resulting in 12 deaths at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that committed the apparently unpardonable sin of lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, once again illustrates that Islam is a dangerous set of beliefs totally incompatible with Western beliefs concerning freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.”
Vanderbilt’s Muslim Students Association said Swain’s “hurtful, inciting comments” had caused “a great deal of emotional distress and frustration.” Swain responded: “Why are today’s university students so fragile they need counseling and affirmation whenever they hear something that makes them uncomfortable? Learning how to deal with your emotions is part of growing up.”
January 15. Former US President Bill Clinton, appearing on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, said Islamic politics “advocates the world’s greatest double standard: if you come to our country, we won’t let you worship the way you want, we won’t let you say what you want to say, we won’t let you do what you want to do. However, we have come to your country, therefore we have the right to do whatever we want to do, including kill you if you make us mad.”
January 15. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, canceled its plan to use the gothic bell tower of its chapel for the adhan, an amplified call to prayer for Muslims. The about-face followed criticism from many corners, including from Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, who wrote:
“As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.”
January 17. A conference in Garland, Texas, aimed at “defeating Islamophobia,” featured several Muslim extremists who advocate the implementation of Sharia law in the United States. The conference, titled, “Stand with the Prophet in Honor and Respect,” was billed as “not an event” but the “beginning of a movement. A movement to defend Prophet Muhammad, his person, and his message.”
January 18. The New York Post reported that Muslim groups are pressing the New York Police Department to remove a report about Islamic terrorism from its website. The groundbreaking, 90-page report, titled, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” angers critics who say it promotes “religious profiling” and discrimination against Muslims. Others argue that removing the report would send the message that the NYPD is backing down on its counterterrorism effort in the name of political correctness.
January 19. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, addressing the London-based Henry Jackson Society, warned that “non-assimilationist Muslims” pose a danger to Europe and the United States. He said:
“In America we are quite happy to welcome freedom loving people, regardless of religion, who want to abide by our laws allowing for freedom of expression and a host of other democratic freedoms. But we will never allow for any sect of people to set up their own areas where they establish their own set of laws.
“For example, Sharia law is not just different than our law, it’s not just a cultural difference, it is oppression and it is wrong. It subjugates women and treats them as property, and it is antithetical to valuing all of human life equally. It is the very definition of oppression. We must stop pretending otherwise.
“I favor robust debate on everything: on religion, on policy, on politics, on everything. It is called freedom. But when debate stops, and when a movement decides that they no longer want to debate their ideas, but rather they want to simply subdue, silence, and kill those who disagree … that is called terrorism, barbarism, and inhuman behavior, and it cannot and must not be tolerated.”
January 20. The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Arkansas corrections officials had violated the religious liberty rights of Muslim inmates by forbidding them to grow beards. The case concerned Gregory H. Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad, who sought to grow a half-inch beard.
January 20. Montana State Senator Janna Taylor introduced Montana Senate Bill 199, which establishes “the primacy of Montana law by prohibiting the application of foreign law when it violates a fundamental right guaranteed by the Montana or United States Constitution.” The bill is aimed at restricting the use of Islamic Sharia and other foreign law in the state.
January 21. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) complained that the movie “American Sniper” was spurring threats against American Muslims. ADC President Samer Khalaf said it did not make sense to call for a boycott of the film, given its box office success: “If we boycott it, it will only cause people to want to see it more.”
January 22. Malak Kazan, a 27-year-old Muslim woman, filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in Detroit, Michigan, accusing the Dearborn Heights Police Department of violating her First Amendment right to religious freedom when she was forced to remove her head scarf, after being arrested for driving with an expired license. Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Garvin said:
“Articles such as hats, caps, hijabs, can contain concealable items that could pose a threat or chance of injury to the cops or to themselves. Our procedure is to have them take the hijab off in the presence of a female. We don’t always have enough female officers present in the station. Our number one concern is security of our officers and the prisoners.”
Kazan’s lawyer, Amir Makled, disagreed:
“The main issue here is that my client’s constitutional rights, her religious liberties, can’t be stripped at the jailhouse door. She has an absolute right to maintain her faith. We hope this cause of action will bring to light a policy that is dated and needs to be amended…. We also hope to get some further diversity training for officers in the city. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for other law enforcement agencies.”
January 23. Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Muslims should not be blamed for Islamic terrorism: “The biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes … [that] the overwhelming majority of Muslims oppose.”
January 23. A federal judge in Denver, Colorado gave a four-year prison sentence to Shannon Maureen Conley, a 19-year-old woman who admitted to wanting to become an ISIS bride and join the jihad in the Middle East. Conley is one of the first Americans to be sentenced for conspiracy to support ISIS. Prosecutors hope her sentence has a deterrent effect.
January 23. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) filed legislation to ban American citizens who fight alongside ISIS and other terror groups from returning to the United States. The bill, known as the Expatriate Terrorist Act, seeks to strip those Americans who travel abroad to fight with ISIS of their US citizenship rights.
January 26. ISIS vowed to behead President Obama and “transform America into a Muslim province.”
January 28. The Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep, a public charter school in Sacramento, California, sponsored an official “Hijab Day” in cooperation with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). To concerns about why a public school would be hosting such an event, the school responded with charges that critics were motivated by “hatred” and “bigotry.”
January 28. The US State Department hosted a delegation of Muslim Brotherhood operatives for a meeting about their ongoing efforts to overthrow the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. A few days after the meeting, the Muslim Brotherhood called for “a long, uncompromising jihad” in Egypt.
January 29. The FBI added a former Northern Virginia taxicab driver to the Most Wanted Terrorists list. Liban Haji Mohamed, 29, a Somali-born naturalized US citizen, is accused of being a recruiter for al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization in Somalia.
January 30. The Refugee Women’s Alliance, one of the largest refugee and immigrant service providers in Seattle, Washington, was forced to close in anticipation of a protest against one of its head teachers, Deepa Bhandaru, who led a discussion about free speech and religious pluralism in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. A group of Somali immigrants demanded that Bhandaru be fired for showing some of the Hebdo cartoons in her class. Bhandaru, who has received an “excellence in teaching” award from the University of Washington, was placed on paid leave while the agency “investigates” the matter.
That’s just January!
February 2. Darlene Hider, a 32-year-old Muslim-American woman who lives in Dearborn, Michigan, said she was harassed on a Delta Airlines flight because she was wearing an Islamic headscarf: “I felt as if I wanted to defend myself but I couldn’t because of the Islamophobia going on.” Others, however, said her children were being disruptive.
The president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Samer Khalaf, said: “We encourage Delta to take immediate steps to rectify this matter.”
But Hider says she wants more than a simple apology: “I want justice for every woman who wears a scarf and who’s Muslim and doesn’t have to worry about being on a plane or in a restaurant or a mall, or walking down the street… That is what I’m standing up for and I will not be quiet.”
February 4. The Mississippi House voted 116-1 to pass House Bill 177, which bans use of foreign law. Proponents of the measure want to prevent courts in the state from referring to Sharia law when deliberating cases.
February 4. The head of the FBI’s counterterrorist division, Michael Steinbach, warned that the Islamic State is targeting and recruiting teenage Americans, including females, to carry out terrorist attacks on US soil.
February 4. A Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll found that 53% of likely Republican caucus participants and 81% of likely Democratic caucus participants said they believe Islam is inherently peaceful. Only 13% of likely Democratic caucus participants said they view Islam as inherently violent, compared with 39% of likely Republican caucus participants.
February 5. US President Barack Obama, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, attempted to downplay the dangers of Islamic terrorism by creating a false moral equivalence with the Crusades, which occurred 1,000 years ago, in response to Muslim invasions.
February 5. The Health and Human Services Committee of the South Dakota House of Representatives approved a proposal that would make it a felony to perform female genital mutilation in the state.
February 5. The Board of Education in Waterbury, Connecticut, announced that all schools in the Waterbury School District would begin honoring two of Islam’s most holy days, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, by not scheduling tests, field trips or major school events on those days. This is the first decision of its kind in the state of Connecticut.
February 6. The FBI charged six Bosnian immigrants with terrorist related crimes: Ramiz Zijad Hodzic, 40; his wife, Sedina Unkic Hodzic, 35; and Armin Harcevic, 37, all of St. Louis County, Missouri; as well as Nihad Rosic, 26, of Utica, New York; Mediha Medy Salkicevic, 34 of Schiller Park, Illinois; and Jasminka Ramic, 42, of Rockford, Illinois. All defendants were charged with conspiring to provide material support and resources to terrorists. Ramiz Zijad Hodzic and Nihad Rosic were also charged with conspiring to kill and maim persons in a foreign country. According to the FBI, the defendants raised money and shipped weapons and uniforms and other aid to ISIS fighters in Syria.
February 6. Army Secretary John McHugh approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of the November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas. Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 wounded in the attack by Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist whose business card read “SoA” for “Soldier of Allah.” The Obama administration had classified the attack as “workplace violence,” but Congress redefined what should be considered an attack by a “foreign terrorist organization” for purposes of determining eligibility for the Purple Heart.
February 9. WFTV Channel 9 television in Orlando, Florida, investigated a school in Seminole County after parents complained that students were learning too much about Islam in a public classroom. One parent became concerned after he spotted a text on his son’s phone from a teacher reminding him to complete a prayer rug assignment and study an Islam packet. WFTV found that a textbook included a chapter dedicated to the “Rise of Islam,” including prayers and scriptures from the Quran. But the first 100 pages of the book, discussing Judaism and Christianity, were missing. Officials from the school district blamed a manufacturer defect in 68 books that are only a year old.
February 10. Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, murdered three college students at a condominium complex in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, allegedly over a dispute over a parking space. Muslim groups branded the triple-homicide as a hate crime because the three victims were Muslim.
February 12. Representatives of several NGOs in Olympia, Washington, called on Representative Larry Haler to apologize for saying in a House Judiciary Committee hearing that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is “basically run by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas,” with a goal “to overthrow the country.” Haler said he has already apologized twice to CAIR for his remarks: “It is unfortunate that these two instances do not satisfy their definition of apology.”
February 13. Reaz Khan, a 51-year-old Pakistani-born naturalized US citizen living in Portland, Oregon, pleaded guilty to providing $2,450 to Ali Jaleel, a terrorist who killed more than 30 people in a May 2009 suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan. Prosecutors presented an email in which Jaleel reminded Khan about their shared promise to seek martyrdom in the name of Allah.
February 14. Terrence Lavaron Thomas, 39, a convert to Islam, stabbed two people at a bus stop in Southfield, a northern suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Police say Thomas asked a group of people if they were Muslim and attacked those who responded ‘no’ with a three-inch knife. American media outlets, including the Washington Post, were accused of seeking to downplay the Muslim attack on non-Muslims by publishing misleading headlines.
February 16. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, speaking on MSNBC’s Hardball, said that the solution to defeating ISIS was “a jobs program.” She said: “We need … to go after the root cause that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs.”
At that point, Harf was interrupted by host Chris Matthews, who pointed out, “There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims.”
Harf continued to argue that the US should help Muslim countries “build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people.” She added: “If we can help countries work at the root causes of this — what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business?”
February 17. The White House launched a three-day Summit on Countering Violent Extremism but refused to use the term Islamic extremism. The summit featured Islamists known for preaching anti-Western themes.
February 17. Al-Hamzah Mohammad Jawad was arrested as he tried to fly out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Michigan, to Amman, Joran, on a one-way ticket. According to the FBI, Jawad, who came to the US in 2013 as a refugee from Iraq, was planning to join ISIS in Iraq.
February 18. Lawmakers in the North Dakota House of Representatives objected to a Muslim delivering the chamber’s opening prayer on Ash Wednesday because some members wanted a Christian pastor to give the invocation. The Minnesota chapter of the CAIR called on North Dakota Republican Party leaders to apologize to Dr. Nadim Koleilat. House leader Al Carson said no such apology would be forthcoming.
February 18. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said his job is to “give voice to the plight of Muslims living in this country and the discrimination that they face.” He added: “And so I personally have committed to speak out about the situation that very often people in the Muslim community in this country face. The fact that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and the Islamic faith is one about peace and brotherhood.”
February 19. US President Barack Obama said that Americans who criticize Islam are guilty of provoking Islamic terrorists: “When people spew hatred towards others — because of their faith or because they’re immigrants — it feeds into terrorist narratives. If entire communities feel they can never become a full part of the society in which they reside, it feeds a cycle of fear and resentment and a sense of injustice upon which extremists prey.”
February 21. The Islamist group al-Shabaab released an online video in which it called for an attack on the Mall of America, a megamall in Bloomington, Minnesota.
February 23. Sohiel Omar Kabir, 37, and Ralph Deleon, 26, were sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for seeking to join al-Qaeda and training to carry out attacks on Americans in Afghanistan. Deleon is a citizen of the Philippines who lived in Ontario, California. Kabir, is an Afghanistan-born American citizen who lived in Pomona, California, and had relocated to Kabul, but was subsequently arrested by American military personnel in Afghanistan.
February 23. Abdirahman S. Mohamud, a 23-year-old Somali-born American citizen residing in Columbus, Ohio, was charged with providing “electronic devices to persons engaged in terrorism in the Middle East.”
February 24. Jean Camara, a convert to Islam, filed a lawsuit against Costco, the world’s third largest retailer, for religious discrimination. He said he was working as a cashier at a store in Brooklyn, New York, when pork came across the conveyor belt. After Camara told his manager that it is against his religious beliefs to touch either pork or alcohol, he was transferred outside to collecting the shopping carts. After he filed a human rights complaint against the company, he says he was fired for insubordinate conduct.
February 25. The FBI charged three residents of Brooklyn, New York, with conspiracy to provide material support to ISIS. Akhror Saidakhmetov, a citizen of Kazakhstan, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport, where he was attempting to board a flight to Istanbul, Turkey. Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, a citizen of Uzbekistan, had previously purchased a plane ticket to travel from New York to Istanbul and was scheduled to leave the United States in March. Abror Habibov, a citizen of Uzbekistan, helped fund Saidakhmetov’s efforts to join ISIS. According to the FBI, Juraboev offered to kill the President of the United States if ordered to do so by ISIS, and Saidakhmetov expressed his intent to buy a machine gun and shoot police officers and FBI agents if thwarted in his plan to join ISIS in Syria.
February 25. The US Supreme Court heard the case of Samantha Elauf, a Muslim woman who said the Abercrombie & Fitch clothing store illegally denied her a job because she wears a hijab in keeping with her faith.
February 26. Abdullahi Mohamud Yusuf, a Somali-American teenager, pleaded guilty in federal court in Minneapolis, Minnesota, of conspiring to support ISIS. Yusuf, 18, was stopped by FBI agents at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in May 2014 as he attempted to leave the US for Turkey.
February 26. An annual report delivered to the US Senate by the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, removed Iran and Hezbollah from its list of terrorism threats, after years in which they featured in similar reports.
February 27. Hundreds of Muslims attended the first ever “Muslim Day” at the Oklahoma state capitol. The event, which was organized by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
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