WASHINGTON - After the massacre in Paris, Lena Badr Abdelhamid's husband warned her that the top suspect in the attack happened to share a name with the couple: Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the alleged mastermind of the attack.
Abdelhamid said she instantly recognized the likelihood that fellow Americans would target her just because that.
"I wonder often how long will we have to pay for crimes that we haven't committed. I immediately began to dread the hate crimes that were sure to follow," said Abdelhamid, 25, who works for a Washington-based refugee agency.
The anti-Muslim rhetoric that followed the Paris attacks has had a chilling effect on Muslims in the United States, according to interviews last week with Muslims across the country. Some women say they face a wrenching dilemma over whether to remove their headscarves. Students avoid walking across campus alone. And commuters in big cities say they have begun standing back on subway platforms for fear that a revenge-seeker will push them into the path of an oncoming train.
For older Muslims who made it through the aftermath of 9/11, the current climate is a depressing return to the days of hateful voicemails, vandalized mosques, and slurs shouted at the grocery store. Members of a younger generation who don't remember that era are getting a jarring introduction to a world where presidential candidates espouse naked bigotry, and social media platforms are plastered with calls for the extermination of an entire faith.
Aysha Khan, 20, said she has been dismayed over the years to see anti-Muslim attacks move from isolated incidents to the mainstream, fueled by anger over the rise of extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State. Last week, she called her parents to tell them about a job interview that would require her to travel from Baltimore to Washington. Her father warned against taking the subway and offered to drive her. She refused.
"Ordinarily, I would feel like they were being paranoid, but they are actually not," she said.
Muslim advocacy groups and hate-crime trackers say that those fears aren't necessarily unfounded.
The FBI's latest statistics on the subject, released Monday, show that only anti-Muslim incidents are on the rise; incidents involving other minorities declined in 2014. The number of anti-Muslim incidents grew from 135 in 2013 to 154 in 2014, according to the FBI's figures, which advocacy groups consider conservative because many more incidents go unreported. That number is expected to increase this year, with the steady pace of attacks by IS and other extremists stoking anti-Muslim sentiment.
In the week since the deadly Paris rampage, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, has compiled extensive lists of apparent retaliatory attacks on Muslims or foreigners and other minorities who are mistaken for Muslim. A CAIR alert last week included "terror threats to Florida mosques, vandalism at a Nebraska mosque, shots fired at a Florida Muslim family's home, hate graffiti targeting a Connecticut Muslim student, an arson attack on a Canadian mosque, a tweet threatening Michigan Muslims, and innumerable hate messages sent online and by phone."