US anti-Muslim hate crimes rose 15 percent in 2017

BOSTON, April 23 (Reuters) - Hate crimes targeting U.S. Muslims rose 15 percent in 2017, the second year of increases, according to a study released on Monday by advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The group recorded 300 U.S. hate crimes targeting Muslims last year, ranging from the June beating of a Muslim man in the Bronx borough of New York City by attackers who called him a terrorist to a November incident when a Muslim family's Kansas restaurant was burned down. That was up from 260 in 2016.

CAIR attributed the increase in part to the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, particularly restrictions on immigration from Muslim-majority countries.

"There has been nothing like this ever, for the Muslim community to be regularly the punching bag of the president of the United States," said Gadeir Abbas, an attorney with CAIR.

Responding by email to a request for comment, White House spokeswoman Kelly Love said, "The Trump Administration stands for the rule of law and abhors all forms of lawlessness including hate crimes."

"President Trump has repeatedly condemned violence, racism and hate groups."

As a candidate, Trump promised "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." Soon after taking office he signed an executive order banning most travelers from several Muslim-majority countries. A revised version of that order, which also included North Korea, took effect late last year.

Trump drew criticism in November for retweeting anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political group.

The 300 hate crimes were a slice of the 2,599 incidents CAIR logged as representing anti-Muslim bias in 2017, a figure that was up 17 percent from 2016. The larger total included harassment, employment discrimination and times when Muslims were subjected to what CAIR recorded as biased treatment by government agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Customs and Border Protection.

More than one-third of the incidents involved federal agencies, CAIR said, adding, "This represents an almost unprecedented level of government hostility toward a religious minority within the United States."

CAIR said its lawyers investigated 5,650 reported anti-Muslim incidents and concluded that slightly less than half of them were authentic.

The group's count of hate crimes targeting Muslims is lower than the FBI's, which recorded 307 anti-Islamic hate crimes in 2016, the most recent year for which it has released data.

Last year's report measured a 44 percent increase in hate crimes into 2016 from 2015. (Reporting by Scott Malone)