Current Affairs

Civil rights organization ID's hate groups on Long Island

Southern Poverty Law Center: Extremism on rise in New York, U.S.


The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization, released its most recent census of organizations it deems hate groups on Feb. 15, identifying at least two that are active on Long Island.

The Ku Klos Knights of the Ku Klux Klan maintain an active presence in Hempstead, while the anti-Muslim group ACT for America has an arm in Lynbrook, according to the SPLC’s release.

ACT is a self-described “nonprofit, non-partisan grassroots national security organization” with the mission of “protecting and preserving American culture.”

Leaders in the group, founded by media personality Brigitte Gabriel — who has called Arabs “barbarians” — have called multiculturalism being taught in schools “a stealth jihad” and linked President Barack Obama to Osama bin Laden, in published reports and televised interviews.

Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC, attributes a nationwide rise in hate and extremist groups to the campaign, and subsequent election, of President Donald J. Trump.

“A surge in right-wing populism, stemming from the long-unfolding effects of globalization and the movements of capital and labor that it spawned, brought a man many considered to be a racist, misogynist and xenophobe into the most powerful office in the world,” Potok said in a release. “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.”

A representative for ACT for America had not responded to an email seeking comment by press time.

Since the Nov. 8, 2016 election, police on Long Island and statewide have reported a significant increase in racist graffiti and other so-called “bias incidents,” including swastikas being spray-painted on public property in Merrick, Garden City and elsewhere in Nassau County.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office took notice of the uptick and launched a toll-free hotline to report such incidents.

“New York serves as a beacon of hope and opportunity for all, and we will continue to stand up to those who seek to spread the politics of division, fear and hate,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Leaders and parishioners from several area synagogues also visited Masjid Hamza Islamic Center of South Shore in Valley Stream on Feb. 3, to condemn religious discrimination in all its forms, and to disavow President Trump’s recent immigration order, which is currently stalled in federal court.

“It is really an honor to be here to support our Muslim neighbors,” Rabbi Sandra Bellush, of Temple Am Echad in Lynbrook, said. “To show that bigotry and hatred based on religious faith is something we will not tolerate in our community.”

According to the SPLC, the number of hate groups operating in the country remained at near-historic highs in 2016, after rising from 892 to 917 in a year.

“By far the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups … a 197 percent increase,” said Potok. “But that explosion was not unexpected. Anti-Muslim hate has been expanding rapidly for more than two years now, driven by radical Islamist attacks including the June [2016] mass murder of 49 people at an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub, the unrelenting propaganda of a growing circle of well-paid ideologues and the incendiary rhetoric of Trump.”