The Victoria Islamic Center mosque is seen one day after it was damaged in a fire in Victoria, Texas January 29, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

A long-anticipated report from a prominent Muslim-American civil rights organization was released this week showing that reported hate crimes against Muslims in the United States rose dramatically in 2016, just as they did in 2015.

Reporting on hate crimes in the US is notoriously inexact. Victims underreport crimes, state and local law enforcement inconsistently record information, and local authorities often fail to provide accurate information to federal agencies. But data released last year from several sources, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, indicated anti-Muslim hate incidents surged in 2015.

Researchers at California State University analyzing data across 20 states reported 196 incidents of hate crimes against Muslims in the US in 2015, a 78 percent increase over the prior year, while hate crimes against almost all other groups declined or increased much less. Projecting these figures nationally, they estimated about 260 hate crimes against Muslims in 2015. Those figures were later corroborated by FBI data showing 257 assaults, attacks on mosques, and other hate crimes against Muslims for 2015, a rise of about 67 percent over 2014.

That trend continued in 2016 according to the data from CAIR, the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the US. According to their report, anti-Muslim hate crime incidents rose dramatically in 2015 and then increased a further 44 percent in 2016, going from 180 incidents in 2015 to 260 in 2016. The CAIR data differs from that collected by the FBI and California State University in that it is not derived from police reporting, but rather from intake reports received and vetted for accuracy by the organization and from verified media accounts.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has rejected allegations that his own anti-Muslim rhetoric has helped to fuel violence as “absurd.” But he has lashed out against his critics far more loudly and more often than he has spoken up against hate crimes. Trump should be much more forceful in speaking out against acts of violent intolerance, especially since his own rhetoric and executive actions have so consistently scapegoated Muslims. He should also support better collection of hate crime data and outreach to affected communities. So far, with the exception of one address to Congress, he has not spoken out against hate crimes, or addressed these issues more broadly in a prominent, public fashion. Victims of such crimes have said these types of pronouncements can have a powerful impact and our research has shown the same.

If Trump really wants to distance himself from these hate incidents, public condemnation, in the wake of this chilling report, would be one way to do it.