WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina - The number of anti-Muslim and anti-government hate groups in the United States have grown sharply over the past 11 years, fueled by racial tensions, political games and anger over economic recession, a new report has revealed.
We've never had a count that high before, Mark Potok, the author of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), told ABC News on Thursday, March 8.
It's just steady significant growth, 3, 4, 5 percent every year going back to the turn of the millennium.
The center counted 1,018 hate groups in the United States last year, up from 1,002 in 2010.
This number of groups has been increasing since 2000, when the center counted 602.
The report revealed, however, that anti-Muslim groups saw a significant increase from 2010 to 2011.
Anti-Muslim hate groups tripled from 10 to 30 last year, and anti-gay hate groups increased from 17 to 27.
Potok attributes the rise in anti-Muslim groups to the debate over plans to build an Islamic center close to the 9/11 location in 2010 and to opportunistic politicians and activists.
It was a completely artificial thing, Potok said.
That anti-Muslim wave is the work of propogandists and nothing more.
Although there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to between 6-8 million Muslims.
According to a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender said that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey has also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll, however, found 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.
The SPLC is an American non-profit legal organization, internationally known for its tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups.
The study referred to anti-immigration debate, the economic recession and election of Democratic President Barack Obama, the country's first black president, as main reasons behind the increase of hate groups.
Around 2000, we saw very dramatically neo-Nazi groups, Klan groups and similar kinds of groups simply drop their propaganda about the alleged evils of black people, of gay people, of Jewish people in order to concentrate pretty much 100 percent on illegal immigrants, Potok told ABC News.
In 2008, we have two more factors come into play. We have Obama and the economy.
A 2009 assessment by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis had found that economic crisis and Obama's election were fueling rightwing extremism in the US and could be used as recruiting tools among war veterans.
Potok expects the rage to grow and the number of hate groups to continue to rise if President Obama is re-elected.
I think it has the potential to get worse before it gets better, Potok said.
As it becomes more likely that Obama will ultimately win, these groups are getting angrier and angrier.
They're looking at four years under a black guy who they hate.