When Zainab Chaudry left a grocery store Wednesday in her native Baltimore, a man loitering outside followed the 32-year-old to her car.
“‘Are you one of those people who are beheading people over there?’” she recalled him asking her. “He said, ‘You need to go back to where you came from, because you’re not welcome here.’”
Chaudry, who wears a traditional headscarf, is one of many Muslims and Muslim-Americans who face heightened backlash since the Islamic State tried to establish a caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
“I never really was very conscious of my Muslim identity in a negative way as I was after 9/11, but even more so after ISIS and the beheadings,” Chaudry said in an interview with the Daily News. She was referring to a slew of executions of American and British citizens by the militants.
From Europe to Canada to the United States, experts say Muslims have been the target of increased discrimination and recent waves of violence as ISIS continues its brutal campaign — in an environment seemingly more hostile than the one after 9/11.
Social media has also contributed to the invective against Muslims, more so than after 9/11, when Facebook and Twitter did not yet exist.
“The use of social media has grown exponentially in recent years,” said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Even post-9/11, it wasn’t really there. But nowadays, everybody uses social media. When you have this constant stream of anti-Muslim polemics and false information, it has a corrosive effect on our society.”
The acts of bigotry also take on other forms.
Last month, an Albuquerque mosque was hit by a Molotov cocktail, which briefly ignited, according to local reports. Five shots were fired Tuesday at a mosque in Coachella, Calif., when four people were inside preparing for an early morning prayer.
No one was hurt in either incident.
Hooper said fewer people are condemning the incidents, which are being investigated as hate crimes.
“Even after 9/11, when a mosque would be attacked, we’d see people coming out with flowers and offers of support,” Hooper told The News. “Unfortunately, we’re seeing less of that.”
Across Europe, the anti-Muslim sentiment has reached a boiling point.
There was a recent spate of violent attacks in Germany, according to a Washington Post story, when right-wing conservatives protesting Islamic fundamentalism in Cologne clashed with police while waving German flags and screaming “foreigners out!” Dozens were injured.
In Paris, a Muslim woman wearing traditional clothing was kicked out of a performance at the Opera Bastille.
And in Denmark, some politicians are calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants from entering the country.
“The stigma against Muslims is just getting worse, and I have considered moving across the border to Sweden,” 21-year-old Alisiv Ceran told the newspaper. “I feel that here, they are saying that integration means forgetting your religious values. I don’t agree with that.”
Experts said Muslims have encountered discrimination in Europe since before 9/11 — but it may be intensifying now because thousands of Europeans have fled to the Middle East to fight with the militants.
While dozens of Americans are believed to have traveled to fight alongside terrorists, at least 3,000 Europeans — many from France and Germany — are estimated to have joined ISIS forces, according to New York-based intelligence firm The Soufan Group.
“You have lots of Americans who, like Europeans, now see Islam as not a religion — it is simply a terrorist ideology,” said Jocelyne Cesari, senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown University.
But the anti-Muslim sentiment in the U.S. is “not as common or intense as what’s happening in Europe,” Cesari told The News.
Chaudry, who also works for CAIR, said associating ISIS with Islam only legitimizes the terrorists’ propaganda.
“They are barbaric,” she said. “There’s nothing Muslim about ISIS. In actuality, the vast majority of their victims are Muslims. The kinds of atrocities they’re engaged in in no way reflects the true ideals of Islam.”