NORFOLK, Va. - A recently-released FBI report showed anti-Muslim crime saw the biggest rise of 19 percent, up from the previous year.
Raha Batts a religious leader at local mosque Masjid Ash-Shura at 3518 Colley Avenue in Norfolk says he personally has dealt with hatred in the community while he was out with his family. One incident almost became violent.
“Once they saw us and I think it was more so my wife who enraged them when they saw her face veil dressed in all black like this he just got really angry, really angry for no reason," he said.
“He said you have to understand - we were all in the Army together. We were all in Afghanistan, and I just really wanted to express to this young man and to people who think like him that we are not the enemy. This mosque - we are probably the most vocal against terrorism, against groups like ISIS,” Batts said.
Batts said he isn’t angry at others who show hatred towards Muslims or Islam, but he wishes they would take them time to understand his culture. He says too often his practices are associated with terrorism.
“The women - they are more of a target because our women wear the face veils, many of them anyway, and they are kind of visible and people they see that and associate that with terrorism,” Batts said.
Overall there was a five percent rise in hate crimes reported last year.
Despite the rise in hate crimes against Muslims for the second year in a row, Batts says he does believe change for the better is possible.
“I have hope because I have hope in humankind,” Batts said.
Batts encourages anyone with questions to visit the mosque's website to learn more.