In this one-off documentary BBC Three examines America's recent upsurge in Islamophobia, meeting both Texan anti-Islam groups and American Muslims as tensions rise at some of America's mosques. Award-winning director and producer Steph Atkinson asks how America got here and whether the fears between these different groups are justified.
Since the start of the presidential race in the US, hate crimes against Muslims have soared. According to a report from Georgetown since the first candidate announced themselves, there have been 180 incidents of anti-Muslim violence, 53 of them in December alone after the isolated shooting orchestrated by an extremist couple in San Bernardino, California.
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‘I think it’s worse than after 9/11’ says Steph Atkinson, a filmmaker whose new BBC Three film The United States of Hate: Muslims under Attack follows the hate groups targeting Muslims in America. ‘We saw a spike of abuse and hate attacks then but I think since San Bernardino we’ve gone past that.’ He cites the fallout from the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels as further fuel to an already burning fire. What’s done the most damage though, is Donald Trump. ‘When you have a politician like Donald Trump who is vocalizing their views they feel they’ve been given a rubber stamp. It allows them to be more vocal about how they feel about Muslims.’
The ‘they’ in question are the two hate groups Steph spent time with for the film; Bomb Islam, based in Phoenix, Arizona who have a delightful selection of Millenial-appealing anti-Muslim memes for use on their website and BAIR, the so-called ‘Bureau of American Islamic Relations’ based in Irving, Texas – the town where 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for bringing a clock to school that teachers believed to resembled a bomb.
These groups share the same views as Donald Trump. ‘They want to ban all Muslims coming into America.’ Says Steph. ‘They see America as their country even though many Muslims have lived there for years. Their view of Muslims is based on ISIS stereotypes.’ If the film’s anything to go by, these groups, populated by mainly middle aged, ex-military white men, mainly engage in activities like protesting outside mosques and hurling abuse at worshippers.
The protests Steph attends in the film are sparsely attended, a few baseball cap and wraparound sunglasses wearing men with guns saying racist things that are so callous an incendiary in nature that it’s hard to take them seriously. Steph warns me from away from this sentiment however. ‘It’s a very British instinct to think well actually they’re so ridiculous we can’t take them seriously but unfortunately that’s exactly how I felt about Trump a year ago and now he’s going to be the Republican candidate.’
Source: The Debrief