LOS ANGELES — As tensions continue to escalate in the Middle East, violence abroad against Jews and Muslims is rising, say leaders of civil rights groups that track hate crimes.
There were more than 100 incidents in 20 countries targeting Jews between Oct. 1 and mid-November, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which monitors anti-Semitic attacks, reported last month.
Monuments honoring the victims of concentration camps during World War II have been desecrated in Germany.
Prayer shawls were used as a wick to start an arson attack at an Australian synagogue. More than 30 firebomings of synagogues and Jewish homes have occurred in France alone, the Wiesenthal Center said.
Muslims say they are also experiencing a ripple effect in the form of vandalism and threats.
In November, the Islamic Center of Southern California was vandalized three times in a 14-day span.
The center’s administrator had his home and business address posted on an Internet message board with the title, “Arab Nazi Center.”
The recent wave of violence has prompted heightened security at synagogues and mosques worldwide during the holiday season when both Jews and Muslims observe their religions’ most sacred days.
While both sides condemn violence against religious institutions, Jewish and Muslim leaders fear the violence won’t subside until a resolution is reached in the Middle East.
“What we are talking about is the largest wave of attacks in the past 60 years,” Mark Weitzman, director of the Task Force Against Hate at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Friday.
“There is no reason for this bloodshed to overflow into other parts of the world. But the conflict has become global.”
Outbreaks of violence have historically followed clashes in the Middle East but now attacks are being fueled by hate-spreading propaganda on the Internet and the formation of extremist groups, said Salam Al-Marayati, national director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
He said the “environment of hate” has been focused on Jewish and Muslim groups seeking a peaceful resolution.
“The vitriol that we have seen is frightening,” he said.
“It indicates to us that there is a campaign to silence the moderate voice.”
United States law enforcement officials are also receiving more reports of hate crimes, which for a long time had gone unreported, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gennaco.
He added that a better network of resources and community partnerships has contributed to the increase of reported incidents and convictions. In some cases, he said, the increased reporting has actually reduced violence.
“The word has gotten out here that hate crimes are taken more seriously,” Gennaco said.
“We are seeing some offenders who aren’t abandoning their beliefs but don’t engage in racial violence.”