- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2017

Anti-Muslim organizations expanded their presence across the United States by three-fold last year as the overall number of hate groups reached historic levels, a civil rights watchdog reported Wednesday.

President Trump’s campaign trail comments about radical Islamic extremists likely spurred a recent rise in hate groups, anti-Islamic and otherwise, the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center indicated in its annual Intelligence Report published this week.

The number of hate groups operating in the U.S. spiked for the second year in a row by growing from 892 in 2015 to 917 in 2016, the SPLC reported. The highest number ever reported during SPLC’s 30-year history was 1,018 in 2011, the group said.

“By far, the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups,” SPLC senior fellow and Intelligence Report editor Mark Potok said. Those organizations numbered 34 in 2015, according to the report, but had totaled 101 by the end of 2016 — an increase of 197 percent.

In addition to anti-Muslim sentiment stirred up by the Pulse nightclub attack last year and earlier atrocities, the SPLC attributed Mr. Trump and some of his closest advisors of contributing to an apparent increase in Islamophobia for the second year in a row.

“Trump’s run for office electrified the radical right, which saw in him a champion of the idea that America is fundamentally a white man’s country,” the report states in part.

“2016 was an unprecedented year for hate,” Mr. Potok added. “The country saw a resurgence of white nationalism that imperils the racial progress we’ve made, along with the rise of a president whose policies reflect the values of white nationalists. In Steve Bannon, these extremists think they finally have an ally who has the president’s ear.”

Despite growing in numbers, anti-Muslim organizations hardly represented the bulk of hate groups identified in SPLC’s annual Intelligence Report. The study identified 130 unique factions of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as 193 black separatist groups and 99 neo-Nazi groups, among hundreds of other organizations.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.

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