Words of contempt, acts of love for Muslims after Paris attacks

Hear caller threaten Florida mosque
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  • Mosques across the country are being vandalized
  • Muslims are being threatened and attacked

(CNN)Perhaps it was inevitable given the religion of the Paris attackers.

Still, the enormity of the backlash is head-spinning.
Words of hate ooze from the pages of social media - drenched in xenophobic bile.
    But at the same time, there have been instances of compassion, of understanding and of love from surprising quarters.
    For Muslims, both citizens and residents of the United States, the backlash isn't surprising. They've felt it after 9/11, and since - whenever someone has carried out a heinous attack in the name of their faith.
    "People feel fear, trepidation, hurt feelings, but you know what mostly the prevalent feeling is? A surge of patriotism," Rep. Keith Ellison told MSNBC. Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress and one of only two members in the Capitol.
    "It's like, 'Wait a minute, I'm an American too. This is my country too. I'll fight for it, I'll die for it, and I'm not going to let ISIS ruin things for Muslims around the world."

    Acts of violence

    The backlash began within hours of the Paris attack, and spread.
    In Connecticut, shots were fired into a mosque in Meriden. In Nebraska, someone threw a rock through the front door of an Omaha mosque.
    Worshipers at a mosque in Pflugerville, Texas, near Austin, found its front door smeared with feces and torn-up pages of the Quran littering the ground.
    But the hate wasn't limited to Muslim places of worship.
    An Uber driver in North Carolina said he was attacked by a passenger who thought he was Muslim.
    "He asked me if I was a Muslim. I said I was not a Muslim," Samson Woldemichael, the driver, told CNN affiliate WBTV. "I was driving and he hit me while I was driving."
    Woldemichael said he's a Christian and came to the United States eight years ago from Ethiopia.
    And four people who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent were pulled off a Chicago-bound plane at Baltimore/Washington International Airport after a woman reported suspicious behavior. All were cleared and released by authorities.

    Anti-Muslim hate crimes up

    The instances go on and on.
    In Florida, a man left profanity-laced messages at the Islamic Society of St. Petersburg and the Islamic Society of Pinellas County.
    "We are tired of your s*** and I f***ing personally have a militia that is going to come down to you Islamic Society of Pinellas county and firebomb you and shoot whoever is there on site in the head," the caller said. "I don't care if they are f***ing 2-years-old or 100. I am over your f***ing s*** and our whole country is."
    Hassan Shibly with the Council on American-Islamic Relations call such acts "a form of terrorism."
    "That's un-American. It's disgusting. It's horrific," he told CNN.
    "We can not allow enemies abroad to divide us here at home. There's no room for that kind of violent rhetoric in our civil society."
    The attacks on Muslims and mosques come at a time when the number of hate crimes in the United States is down overall - but anti-Muslim ones are up.
    Anti-Muslim hate crimes rose by 14% last year, according to the FBI's annual Hate Crime Statistics Report.

    Acts of love

    But it's not all bleak.
    Even with all the suspicions, there were acts acceptance and understanding too.
    At the Texas mosque where feces was smeared on the door, 7-year-old Jack Swanson felt bad about what happened and donated $20 from his piggy bank, affiliate KXAN reported.
    "It's 20 bucks, but coming from Jack collecting his pennies, it's worth 20 million bucks to me and to our community," said Faisal Naeem, a mosque board member.
    At Florida State University, Muslim students handed out 150 bags of candy. Tied to each was a verse from the Quran.
    "Whoever kills an innocent life, it is as if he has killed all of humanity. And whoever saves one life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity," the verse says.
    And on the Internet, the hashtag campaign #NotInMyName hopes to tackle Islamophobia in Western culture.
    "I don't see ISIS as Muslim. I see terrorists when I look at ISIS," Philistine Ayad, a Muslim feminist, told CNN. "To me, terror knows no religion. They are picking and choosing aspects of the religion and twisting and distorting them in order to justify their actions that are unjustifiable."
    "If the #NotInMyName campaign can help expel some of that Islamophobia and expel some of my fear ... then that would be wonderful."