The Muslim population of the United States surpassed 3.5 million in 2015, according to demographic projections compiled by the Pew Research Center. In percentage terms, Muslims currently comprise roughly 1% of the US population.
As in Europe, Islam was an ever-present topic in American newspaper headlines during 2015. Most news items involved terrorism-related issues — including many cases of lone-wolf terrorists — closely followed by articles about Muslim integration and assimilation.
January 6. Officials at the Rocky Heights Middle School in Littleton, Colorado, ignited controversy when they told female students to dress according to Sharia law while visiting a mosque during a field trip. Peter Boyles, a radio talk show host in Denver, said: “Public schools are forbidden from holding girls to different standards than boys. They’re holding these girls to a different standard, it’s a religious reason. Islam dictates many … repressive practices against women…. That’s their belief … but don’t apply it to public school kids.”
January 7. Hashim Hanif Ibn Abdul-Rasheed, a 41-year-old Muslim armed with two knives taped to his legs, attempted to buy a plane ticket at the Port Columbus International Airport in Columbus, Ohio. Abdul-Rasheed was shot after he lunged at a police officer. Police said his behavior was “consistent with someone who intended to hijack an aircraft.”
January 9. Abdalah Mohamed, a 19-year-old migrant from Kenya, was arrested after he threatened to kill the owner of a Jewish delicatessen in Portland, Oregon. Police said Mohamed entered the store asking for a single cigarette. When the owner replied that he did not sell individual cigarettes, Mohamed reportedly said: “I will blow up your store. I’m going to take care of you, you mother (redacted). I’ll call my people to take care of you to shoot you! I will blow up your store in the name of Allah, I will take care of people like you!”
January 12. ISIS sympathizers hacked the official Twitter account of the US Central Command, the Pentagon division in charge of the Middle East. One tweet sent from CENTCOM’s account stated: “American soldiers, we are coming, watch your backs.” Another tweet said: “ISIS is already here…. With Allah’s permission we are in CENTCOM now.”
January 13. Representative André Carson (D-Indiana), a convert to Islam, was appointed to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Carson, who has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, is the first Muslim to sit on the committee.
January 14. Christopher Lee Cornell, a 20-year-old convert to Islam, was arrested in Cincinnati, Ohio, for plotting to “wage jihad” by attacking the US Capitol. Cornell and his accomplice, who was actually an FBI informant, planned to detonate pipe bombs and gun down lawmakers. Cornell, whose Muslim name is Raheel Mahrus Ubaydah, had bought two M-15 rifles and 600 rounds of ammunition. He had also posted messages and videos espousing support for ISIS.
As part of his training, Bell conducted a late-night “jihadi training mission” that involved destroying religious statues in a multi-denominational cemetery in Jacksonville. He also uploaded training and recruiting videos onto the Internet, including one in which he makes homemade pipe bombs and another in which he burns an America flag.January 14. Shelton Thomas Bell, a 21-year-old convert to Islam from Jacksonville, Florida, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for attempting to provide material support to terrorists. According to court documents, Bell “conspired to train and prepare as a combatant for overseas violent jihad, then travel from Jacksonville to the Middle East for the ultimate purpose of providing the skills to terrorists, including members of Ansar al-Sharia in Yemen.”
January 15. Carol Swain, a prominent professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, penned an op-ed in The Tennessean titled, “Charlie Hebdo attacks prove critics were right about Islam.” She wrote:
“What horrendous attack would finally convince us that Islam is not like other religions in the United States, that it poses an absolute danger to us and our children unless it is monitored better than it has been under the Obama administration?
“More and more members of the PC [politically correct] crowd now acknowledge that Islam has absolutely nothing in common with Christianity….
“It becomes clearer every day that Islam is not just another religion to be accorded the respect given to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha’i and other world religions. The Jan. 7 terrorist attack resulting in 12 deaths at the Paris offices ofCharlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine that committed the apparently unpardonable sin of lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, once again illustrates that Islam is a dangerous set of beliefs totally incompatible with Western beliefs concerning freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.”
Vanderbilt’s Muslim Students Association said Swain’s “hurtful, inciting comments” had caused “a great deal of emotional distress and frustration.” Swain responded: “Why are today’s university students so fragile they need counseling and affirmation whenever they hear something that makes them uncomfortable? Learning how to deal with your emotions is part of growing up.”
January 15. Former US President Bill Clinton, appearing on NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers, said Islamic politics “advocates the world’s greatest double standard: if you come to our country, we won’t let you worship the way you want, we won’t let you say what you want to say, we won’t let you do what you want to do. However, we have come to your country, therefore we have the right to do whatever we want to do, including kill you if you make us mad.”
January 15. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, canceled its plan to use the gothic bell tower of its chapel for the adhan, an amplified call to prayer for Muslims. The about-face followed criticism from many corners, including from Christian evangelist Franklin Graham, who wrote:
“As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.”
January 17. A conference in Garland, Texas, aimed at “defeating Islamophobia,” featured several Muslim extremists who advocate the implementation of Sharia law in the United States. The conference, titled, “Stand with the Prophet in Honor and Respect,” was billed as “not an event” but the “beginning of a movement. A movement to defend Prophet Muhammad, his person, and his message.”
January 18. The New York Post reported that Muslim groups are pressing the New York Police Department to remove a report about Islamic terrorism from its website. The groundbreaking, 90-page report, titled, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” angers critics who say it promotes “religious profiling” and discrimination against Muslims. Others argue that removing the report would send the message that the NYPD is backing down on its counterterrorism effort in the name of political correctness.
January 19. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, addressing the London-based Henry Jackson Society, warned that “non-assimilationist Muslims” pose a danger to Europe and the United States. He said:
“In America we are quite happy to welcome freedom loving people, regardless of religion, who want to abide by our laws allowing for freedom of expression and a host of other democratic freedoms. But we will never allow for any sect of people to set up their own areas where they establish their own set of laws.
“For example, Sharia law is not just different than our law, it’s not just a cultural difference, it is oppression and it is wrong. It subjugates women and treats them as property, and it is antithetical to valuing all of human life equally. It is the very definition of oppression. We must stop pretending otherwise.
“I favor robust debate on everything: on religion, on policy, on politics, on everything. It is called freedom. But when debate stops, and when a movement decides that they no longer want to debate their ideas, but rather they want to simply subdue, silence, and kill those who disagree … that is called terrorism, barbarism, and inhuman behavior, and it cannot and must not be tolerated.”
January 20. The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Arkansas corrections officials had violated the religious liberty rights of Muslim inmates by forbidding them to grow beards. The case concerned Gregory H. Holt, also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad, who sought to grow a half-inch beard.
January 20. Montana State Senator Janna Taylor introduced Montana Senate Bill 199, which establishes “the primacy of Montana law by prohibiting the application of foreign law when it violates a fundamental right guaranteed by the Montana or United States Constitution.” The bill is aimed at restricting the use of Islamic Sharia and other foreign law in the state.
January 21. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) complained that the movie “American Sniper” was spurring threats against American Muslims. ADC President Samer Khalaf said it did not make sense to call for a boycott of the film, given its box office success: “If we boycott it, it will only cause people to want to see it more.”
January 22. Malak Kazan, a 27-year-old Muslim woman, filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in Detroit, Michigan, accusing the Dearborn Heights Police Department of violating her First Amendment right to religious freedom when she was forced to remove her head scarf, after being arrested for driving with an expired license. Dearborn Heights Police Chief Lee Garvin said:
“Articles such as hats, caps, hijabs, can contain concealable items that could pose a threat or chance of injury to the cops or to themselves. Our procedure is to have them take the hijab off in the presence of a female. We don’t always have enough female officers present in the station. Our number one concern is security of our officers and the prisoners.”
Kazan’s lawyer, Amir Makled, disagreed:
“The main issue here is that my client’s constitutional rights, her religious liberties, can’t be stripped at the jailhouse door. She has an absolute right to maintain her faith. We hope this cause of action will bring to light a policy that is dated and needs to be amended…. We also hope to get some further diversity training for officers in the city. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for other law enforcement agencies.”
January 23. Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Muslims should not be blamed for Islamic terrorism: “The biggest error that we could make would be to blame Muslims collectively for crimes … [that] the overwhelming majority of Muslims oppose.”
January 23. A federal judge in Denver, Colorado gave a four-year prison sentence to Shannon Maureen Conley, a 19-year-old woman who admitted to wanting to become an ISIS bride and join the jihad in the Middle East. Conley is one of the first Americans to be sentenced for conspiracy to support ISIS. Prosecutors hope her sentence has a deterrent effect.
January 23. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) filed legislation to ban American citizens who fight alongside ISIS and other terror groups from returning to the United States. The bill, known as the Expatriate Terrorist Act, seeks to strip those Americans who travel abroad to fight with ISIS of their US citizenship rights.
January 26. ISIS vowed to behead President Obama and “transform America into a Muslim province.”
January 28. The Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep, a public charter school in Sacramento,California, sponsored an official “Hijab Day” in cooperation with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). To concerns about why a public school would be hosting such an event, the school responded with charges that critics were motivated by “hatred” and “bigotry.”
January 28. The US State Department hosted a delegation of Muslim Brotherhood operatives for a meeting about their ongoing efforts to overthrow the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. A few days after the meeting, the Muslim Brotherhood called for “a long, uncompromising jihad” in Egypt.
January 29. The FBI added a former Northern Virginia taxicab driver to the Most Wanted Terrorists list. Liban Haji Mohamed, 29, a Somali-born naturalized US citizen, is accused of being a recruiter for al-Shabaab, a terrorist organization in Somalia.
January 30. The Refugee Women’s Alliance, one of the largest refugee and immigrant service providers in Seattle, Washington, was forced to close in anticipation of a protest against one of its head teachers, Deepa Bhandaru, who led a discussion about free speech and religious pluralism in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. A group of Somali immigrants demanded that Bhandaru be fired for showing some of the Hebdo cartoons in her class. Bhandaru, who has received an “excellence in teaching” award from the University of Washington, was placed on paid leave while the agency “investigates” the matter.
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in early 2016.