Spolin Law Civil Rights Report – Threatening Letters Sent to California Mosques

Posted on Thursday, December 1st, 2016 at 2:20 pm    

By Rachel Silber, Spolin Law Criminal & Civil Rights Law Clerk

A slew of California mosques received hateful letters from an anonymous group titled “Americans for a Better Way” on November 28th, as reported by KTLA News. The letters were sent to Southern and Northern California mosques, as well as Islamic Centers in San Jose, Claremont, Long Beach, and Northridge.  They were addressed “to the children of Satan,” calling Muslims “a vile and filthy people.” KTLA story link: LAPD, FBI Address Threatening Letters Sent to California Mosques.  LAPD Deputy Chief Michael Downing noted how hateful rhetoric is rooted in fear and escalated by the charged political climate. However, according to the article, Downing believes that these letters are not to be considered a hate crime; rather, they are classified as a “hate occurrence.” One of the letters went on to predict that the federal government would carry out violent, genocidal acts against Muslims.

The rising pressure on Muslims and Islamic culture has been propelled by recent political conditions. The rise of Islam as an minority faith in America can be argued to increase anxiety among certain members of dominant religions. These reservations on Islamic culture, intensified by foreign events and the rise of ISIS, are expressed through hateful mediums, such as these letters (cited above). Although Downing claims that these letters are not to be considered a hate crime, one can argue otherwise. According to a 2015 Huffington Post article, the liberty of religious freedom rests upon civil and political freedoms. And as of November 30th, 2016, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has reported over 100 incidents against Muslims since the presidential election.

Religious freedom is something that Western culture has prided itself on.  Religious rights were written into the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, and this document is supposed to protect people of all religions, allowing them to freely practice their faith without discrimination. It is a federal crime to threaten or imitate people because of their religion.  Although LAPD claimed these letters are not hate crimes, it can be argued that when these letters referenced an Islamic genocide, a threat was made against a religious group. Regardless of whether “Americans for a Better Way” will be prosecuted, one theme is evident: a rise in religious intimidation is a cause for concern.

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