March 19, 2019
Issue: Hate Crimes
Faith and Civil Rights Leaders Ask FBI to Take Action on White Nationalist Violence
Leaders Request Meeting with FBI Director Christopher Wray
WASHINGTON, DC — In a letter sent yesterday, Muslim Advocates, the Union for Reform Judaism, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the Sikh Coalition asked FBI Director Christopher Wray for a meeting to discuss the continued threat of white nationalist violence to houses of worship and vulnerable communities. Muslim Advocates is also launching a petition campaign urging the FBI to focus on the threat of white nationalism.
The horrific massacre that left 51 dead at two mosques in New Zealand was committed by an avowed white nationalist. However, this is far from the only attack by a white nationalist on a mosque, synagogue, gurdwara, church or other place of worship in recent memory. As the letter notes:
“For example, in 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page murdered six and injured four, when he stormed a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In 2015, Dylann Roof, who spewed deep racial hatred and espoused white nationalist ideals, entered the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine individuals. In 2018, Robert D. Bowers burst into the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and shouted anti-Semitic slurs, killing 11 worshippers. This hate manifested itself again last week in New Zealand, when Brenton Harrison Tarrant live streamed his attacks against Masjid al-Noor and the Linwood Mosque in Christchurch where he murdered over 50 people and injured many more. Tarrant too, was a virulent white nationalist, and even cited Roof as an inspiration in his manifesto.”
As this pattern of violence shows, white nationalists are a serious, persistent threat to people of faith and to all communities. Unfortunately, the federal government has yet to take urgent action to understand and respond to this threat. The FBI has a blind spot when it comes to the white nationalist threat. For example, while the vast majority of acts of extremist violence in the U.S. have been committed by right-wing, anti-government, and white nationalist groups, no more than 10 percent of FBI counterterrorism agents are focused on this threat.
“For years, the federal government has abdicated its duty to protect us by refusing to devote sufficient attention and resources to understanding, preventing and investigating the white nationalist threat,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates. “In that time, multiple houses of worship have been attacked by people espousing a similar, racist ideology and far too many lives have been lost. The FBI needs to immediately make up for this lost time by immediately prioritizing the threat from white nationalists so that we can prevent more blood from being shed.”
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization working in the courts, in the halls of power and in communities to halt bigotry in its tracks. We ensure that American Muslims have a seat at the table with expert representation so that all Americans may live free from hate and discrimination.