Ever since the Dec. 2, 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino carried out by a couple who authorities believe were inspired by militant Islamic groups, local Muslims say they’ve been living with the fallout.
The terror attack left 14 dead and 21 injured at an Inland Empire center for developmentally disabled. Then came the political rhetoric, with calls from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and others to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Hate crimes against Muslims spiked around the country, and there have been uncomfortable stares and awkward conversations.
Neurologist Faisal Qazi, who has practices in San Bernardino, Upland and Pomona, said some of the conversations came when he least expected it — like during the primary election, when a patient told him he’d just voted for Trump.
Qazi replied that he was Muslim. "They said, 'No, no, we’re pretty sure you’re here legally,'" said Qazi, a U.S. citizen. "You know, so they're reassuring me."
Qazi and other Muslim professionals helped raise money for the families of the San Bernardino shooting victims. The money went to a county fund set up to aid the survivors. Qazi likes to think the effort helped dispel negative stereotypes.
"Most of the reaction was very positive, and we had support from all sides of the political spectrum, and the social spectrum," Qazi said. "But, nonetheless, there has been a backlash."
Criminologist Brian Levin at Cal State San Bernardino noted in a report this fall that in 2015, anti-Muslim hate crimes rose in the U.S. to a level not seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. The report, based on reported hate crimes data for 20 states that included California, charted a 78 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes between 2014 and 2015.
FBI hate crime statistics from 2015 released last month show a similar trend: A 67 percent spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes nationwide for 2015. Overall hate crimes in the U.S. rose by almost 7 percent.
And in California, hate crimes targeting Muslims nearly doubled between 2014 and 2015, from 18 incidents to 40, according to the state Attorney General's office.
But Levin points out that in San Bernardino, there was not a similar increase. Levin attributes it to the way community and faith organizations came together to mourn those who died and to heal.
“I think that speaks quite a bit to the fact that when we are trying to recover and move forward, everybody has to show up and roll their sleeves up and work together as a community," he said.
Levin said that includes speaking out against discrimination.