Huge growth in anti-Muslim hate groups during 2016: SPLC report

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The number of hate groups in the United States rose for the second straight year in 2016, with a sharp spike in those spreading anti-Muslim messages, according to a civil rights group.

In its annual census of hate groups and extremist organizations, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said the overall number of hate groups grew from 892 in 2015 to 917 in 2016.

But the number of anti-Muslim groups nearly tripled — from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year.

Source: SPLC

The SPLC said the tenor of the presidential campaign energized certain sectors of the hate movement.

Donald Trump won the backing of white supremacist David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard. Trump accused Mexican immigrants of being "rapists" and "criminals" and a controversial executive order temporarily barred entry to the U.S. for citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations.

"There is no question that the organizations that aligned themselves with the Trump campaign saw their ranks grow, their prominence grow and their online readership grow," said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project.

Beirich told NBC News that the number of hate groups has grown over the past two years since dropping to an 11-year low in 2014.

Source: SPLC/NBC News

To maintain its annual count, the SPLC assigns people to watch different hate groups to see whether they develop or fall apart.

The groups are not difficult to identify, because they are actively trying to spread their message, according to Beirich.

RELATED: Anti-Muslim hate groups in the US

"Hate groups are becoming less organized, decentralized and web-based," she added. "To see these organizations affiliated with Trump grow really says something, particularly because they're in the real world. Our hate group list is about real-world activity, not web activity."

However, the SPLC found that organizations like the Ku Klux Klan had become less popular.

See the KKK throughout history

23 PHOTOS
Ku Klux Klan (KKK) throughout history
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Ku Klux Klan (KKK) throughout history
1866: A wood engraving depicting two members of the Ku Klux Klan. The white sheet and hood were supposed to represent the ghosts of Confederate soldiers risen from the dead to seek revenge. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Kayne Township. Ku Klux Klan Wedding In New Jersey. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Long Island, NY-Ku Klux Klan with hands raised in oath during night meeting.
20th March 1922: Members of the white supremacist movement, the Ku Klux Klan standing by an aeroplane, out of which they dropped publicity leaflets over Washington DC. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 1/4/1923-Homestead, FL: Photo shows gathering of the Ku Klux Klan, members of the invisible empire, at Homestead, FL., thirty miles South of Miami, and within three miles of the Southern most point of the mainland of the United States. The Imperial Wizard of he Klan is somewhere in the group. But, he just won't make himself known.
Ku Klux Klan members hold a march in Washington, DC, on August 9, 1925.
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: Ku Klux Klan Ritual At Atlanta In Usa During Thirties (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Over 100,000 people are expected in Washington for the Klan parade and gathering. Government buildings are all guarded in case of disorder. Photo shows members of the Women's K.K.K. of Virginia marching down Pennsylvania Ave.
5/07/98 PHOTOGRAPHER: Susan Biddle - TWP Wheaton, Md. BRIEF DESCRIPTION: Darryl Davis and his KKK collection Davis, a blues pianist, meets as many KKK guys as he can to find out why they are as they are. He has a collection of robes and other KKK items such as this medallion. (KU KLUX KLAN) (Photo by Susan Biddle/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
A young protester argues with Thom Robb during a Ku Klux Klan rally in Stephenville, Texas. Robb is the national director of the Arkansas-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. (Photo by ?? Greg Smith/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Imperial Wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Don Black, wearing a suit and tie, with white-gowned Klan members in the background.
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Ku Klux Klan members supporting Barry Goldwater's campaign for the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, San Francisco, California, as an African American man pushes signs back: 12 July 1964. Photographer: Warren K Leffler. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Parade of the Ku Klux Klan, in regalia and carrying the stars and stripes, through counties of Virginia bordering on the District of Columbia, America, 1926. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
Ku Klux Klan members march through downtown Houston under heavy police protection. (Photo by Greg Smith/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) The Ku Klux Klan failed to make good its threat to parade through the streets of this town today and instead had a small parade in Neptune City and Neptune Township. Less than 3,000 men, women, and children marched in the parade, headed by Arthur H. Bell, Grand Dragon of the Realm of New Jersey. Some of the Klansmen were robed and masked, others wore their robes with hoods lifted. (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
Members of the Ku Klux Klan attend a demonstration in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. They are protesting against the Martin Luther King holiday. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Demonstration of the Ku Klux Klan (Photo by F. Carter Smith/Sygma via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 23: Jeffery Berry, national imperial wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (l.), Grand Dragon James Sheehy (nursing his would after being attacked), and other Klan members hold a rally at Foley Square near the New York State Supreme Court House. (Photo by Budd Williams/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
VALLEY FORGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: A Ku Klux Klan member shows off his tattoo during an American Nazi party member during American Nazi Party rally at Valley Forge National Park September 25, 2004 in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Hundreds of American Nazis from around the country were expected to attend. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)
SHARPSBURG, MD - SEPTEMBER 07: Members of the Confederate White Knights hold a flag during a rally at the Antietam National Battlefield September 7, 2013 near Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Rosedale, Maryland Ku Klux Klan group held the rally to protest against the administration of President Barack Obama and the U.S. immigration policies. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, SC - JULY 18: Ku Klux Klan members take part in a Klan demonstration at the state house building on July 18, 2015 in Columbia, South Carolina. The KKK protested the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house grounds, as law enforcement tried to prevent violence between the opposing groups. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Demostrators take part in a protest against asylum seekers brought to stay at a former army barracks in the Hennala district in Lahti late September 24, 2015. Demonstrators threw stones and launched fireworks at a bus full of asylum seekers arriving at a reception centre in Lahti in southern Finland, late on Thursday, Finnish media reported on Friday. Between 30 and 40 demonstrators, one in a white robe like those worn by the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan in the United States, waved the Finnish flag and shouted abuse at the bus. Picture taken September 24, 2015. REUTERS/Heikki Ahonen/Lehtikuva ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. FINLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN FINLAND.
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"Not every sector of the movement did well this year," Beirich said. "Klan groups fell by a bit of a chunk, but most of the groups that we consider white nationalist that are Trump-aligned for the most part held steady."

The SPLC interviewed 10,000 educators after the election. Eighty percent said fear and anxiety grew among students after Election Day, especially among students who were immigrants, Muslims or African Americans.

The annual census, which was released Wednesday, found that most of the groups created to bolster those messages in 2016 were specifically anti-Muslim.

RELATED: Anti-Muslim hate crimes in the US

The SPLC alleged Trump's rhetoric during the campaign encouraged the creation of anti-Muslim organizations and legitimized them. He pledged to create a database tracking Muslims in the U.S. and falsely claimed that thousands of American Muslims celebrated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

According to a Pew Research Center Poll published Wednesday, nearly a third of Americans do not feel an affinity toward Muslims.

See how the US was divided after the election

19 PHOTOS
America divided after historical election
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America divided after historical election
Demonstrators shout during a rally against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Seattle, Washington, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/David Ryder
Demonstrators hold signs during a rally against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Seattle, Washington, U.S. November 20, 2016. REUTERS/David Ryder
Demonstrators gathered outside of Trump International Hotel and Tower to protest Donald Trump's impending presidency in Chicago on December 1, 2016. (Photo by Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Protestors march against advisers of US President-elect Donald Trump. including Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor, at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 30, 2016. / AFP / Ryan McBride (Photo credit should read RYAN MCBRIDE/AFP/Getty Images)
Man wearing a jacket with anti-Trump sticker during a protest against Wells Fargo for partially bankrolling the Dakota Access Pipeline. Los Angeles, California. November 26, 2016. The demonstrators stand in solidarity with the native American Sioux tribe in their efforts to stop the construction of the oil pipeline. President-elect, Donald Trump holds stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company that is building the pipeline. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
A sign seen during a protest against Wells Fargo for partially bankrolling the Dakota Access Pipeline. Los Angeles, California. November 26, 2016. The demonstrators stand in solidarity with the native American Sioux tribe in their efforts to stop the construction of the oil pipeline. President-elect, Donald Trump holds stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company that is building the pipeline. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
TRUMP SOHO HOTEL, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - 2016/11/21: A legal, nonviolent demonstration was held in front of Trump Soho Hotel (246 Spring St. NY) denouncing Trump's installation of white nationalists, racists and Islamophobes in his administration--foremost Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and Michael Flynn. (Photo by Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 19: People take part in a rally protest against U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on November 19, 2016 at Downtown Long Beach in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Aydin Palabiyikoglu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 19: Larry West, 31, demonstrates against President-elect Donald Trump at Thomas Paine Plaza November 19, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is the second protest march today and the 11th consecutive day of anti-Trump protests in Philadelphia, with plans to demonstrate everyday through inauguration day, January 20, 2017. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
Hundreds of people gathered in Chicago's Loop for the second weekend of protests against President-elect Donald Trump in Chicago on November 19, 2016. (Photo by Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Diane Knutson (L) and Sandy Hartman of Seattle hold signs as people gather to hold hands in protest of US President-elect Donald Trump on Green Lake in Seattle, Washington on November 19, 2016. / AFP / Jason Redmond (Photo credit should read JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty Images)
A supporter of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (R) argues with a man against Trump in Times Square, Manhattan, New York, U.S. on November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Bria Webb
Hispanic demonstrators protest in front of the White House as the polls are counted in the U.S. presidential election in Washington, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Supporters of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump and former U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton argue after Trump is declared the winner in Times Square in New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09: An anti-Trump protester yells at a crowd of Donald J. Trump supporters across the street at the Hilton Hotel from where the Republican Presidential nominee is holding his victory celebration at the Hilton Hote on November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States. (Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
A supporter of U.S. president-elect Donald Trump (front) is shoved by a supporter of former U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton after Trump was declared the winner in Times Square in New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich
A supporter of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (L) argues with a man against Trump in Times Square, Manhattan, New York, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Bria Webb
TOPSHOT - A Hillary Clinton supporter clashes with a Donald Trump supporter outside the White House early November 9, 2016 in Washington, DC. Trump stunned America and the world, riding a wave of populist resentment to defeat Hillary Clinton in the race to become the 45th president of the United States. / AFP / Andrew Biraj (Photo credit should read ANDREW BIRAJ/AFP/Getty Images)
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Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said that Trump's immigration ban — which has been suspended due to a court order — suggested that "what used to be a fringe, extremist ideology of anti-Muslim ideology has now moved from the fringe of society to the center of powers in the White House."

Hooper noted the controversial affiliations of members of Trump's inner circle in the White House.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is a board member of ACT for America, which the SPLC categorizes as an "extremist group."

Senior White House strategist Steve Bannon invited SPLC-identified anti-Muslim figures — such as Frank Gaffney and Pamela Geller — on his radio show when he was executive chairman of Breitbart News. And White House counselor Kellyanne Conway worked as a pollster for Gaffney's Center for Security Policy, which the SPLC calls a hate group.

Related: Muslims and Jews Band Together Against Hate

"There's a tremendous level of apprehension and tension in the American Muslim community at a level not seen since 9/11," Hooper added. "People are really wondering where we're going as a nation and what their role and place will be in that nation."

Trump has not directly addressed the spike in hate crimes.

When asked Wednesday about the spike in anti-Semitic incidents across the United States, Trump first cited his electoral victory and the support he had received during the election before addressing the issue.

"I will say that we are going to have peace in this country," the president said. "We are going to stop crime in this country. We are going to do everything within our power to stop long-simmering racism and every other thing that's going on."

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