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US hate crimes spiked 17 percent in 2017: FBI

Muslim Times(Web Desk) – The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has released new statistics showing a dramatic rise of nearly 17 percent in hate crimes for the third consecutive year in 2017.

In an annual report published on Tuesday, the US federal government revealed that there were a total of 7,175 cases of hate crimes last year, up from 6,121 in 2016, with more incidents motivated by racial, ethnic and religious bias than in previous years.

The FBI said almost 60 percent of crimes in the single-bias incident category, meaning the perpetrators were motivated by only one factor, were motivated by a person’s race, with African-Americans being by far the most targeted.

There was also a nearly 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes in 2017, with a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, according to the FBI.

The report indicated that attacks against Jewish people accounted for 58.1 percent of crimes motivated by anti-religious bias last year, a 4-percent increase from 2016.

Anti-Muslim crimes were claimed to have gone down.

The FBI said anti-Muslim offenses accounted for 24.8 percent of anti-religious hate crimes in 2016 compared with 18.7 percent in 2017.

A hate crime generally refers to a criminal act that is motivated by bias against a specific group. Hate crimes may involve physical assault, bullying, harassment, damage to property, verbal abuse or insults, offensive graffiti and hate mail.

The acting US attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, described the FBI report on Tuesday as a “call to action,” adding that the offenses were “despicable violations of our core values as Americans.”

“The Department of Justice’s top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes. They are also despicable violations of our core values as Americans,” Whitaker said in a statement.

“The American people can be assured that this Department has already taken significant and aggressive actions against these crimes and that we will vigorously and effectively defend their rights,” Whitaker added.

The FBI report came weeks after a mass shooter in Pittsburgh committed the deadliest attack against America’s Jewish community, claiming the lives of 11 congregants and injuring seven others at a synagogue in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Critics say US President Donald Trump’s “xenophobic rhetoric and racist policies” have fomented a surge in right-wing extremism across the country and may have even helped provoke the bloodshed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

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