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Arizona facing growing challenge with white supremacy, anti-Semitism

(Getty Images/Robert Nickelsberg)

PHOENIX — White supremacy and anti-Semitism is presenting a growing challenge to Arizona, an expert said, as the number of hate crimes against the state’s Jewish community continue to rise.

Nicholas Rasmussen, the senior director for national security and counterterrorism programs at the McCain Institute, said recent mass shootings at Chabad of Poway in San Diego and the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh indicate a growing problem.

“When most Americans think of terrorism, they tend to think of the kind of Islamic terrorism that led to the attacks on 9/11,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Tuesday.

“But increasingly what we’re seeing is not just that…we’re also seeing individuals motivated by other hate-based ideologies, like white supremacy or anti-Semitism.”

After recent data found the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Arizona increased 23% in 2018 over the year prior, Rasmussen said people need to be aware of the actions of those closest to them.

“‘See something, say something’ is a great motto to live by, but, of course, in order to know what you’re seeing, you have to have an understanding of what you’re seeing,” he said.

“We have to help communities understand what the signs are…when an individual who perhaps all on their own becomes radicalized and develops this extreme ideology.”

Rasmussen said some of the signs that someone has been radicalized include spending an excessive amount of time consuming content from extremist groups and increasingly talking about being “under threat by these other groups.

“That’s usually a sign that they’re reaching a crisis point and could turn to violence,” he said.

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