Speaking to a Muslim advocacy group on Thursday, Attorney General Loretta Lynch urged Muslim parents to contact the Justice Department and the Department of Education if their children are bullied at school.
“Other areas in which we are seeing growing areas of concern…specifically involve our children, and the issues of bullying and the schools,” Lynch said during a question-and-answer session at an event hosted by Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organization.
“We saw [bullying] a lot in the New York area, unfortunately, where there would be a backlash against the Muslim community in general,” added Lynch, a former U.S. attorney based in New York.
To address what she said is a growing problem of bullying of Muslim kids, Lynch urged parents to contact the federal government.
“If you are aware of situations where children are involved, please contact the Department of Justice and the Department of Education,” Lynch said. “We can provide guidance, we can have conversations.”
“Everything need not result in a lawsuit, but some things do have to go to that area,” Lynch said, citing the recent case of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old boy who claimed he was the target of Islamophobia after he took a disassembled clock to his Irving, Tex. high school.
“We have, as you may know, opened an investigation into the case of the young man in Irving, Texas. We will see where that investigation goes,” Lynch said.
“You have extreme situations like that, but you also have those everyday things that happen,” she continued. “We have an important, important role to play so please, please think of us there as well.”
Lynch’s remarks come in the wake of Wednesday’s apparent terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Cal. Syed Farook, a devout Muslim, and his wife killed 14 people at a holiday party being hosted by his employer on Wednesday. Investigators have found evidence linking Farook to known terrorists and to Islamic extremism.
But neither Lynch nor Muslim Advocates executive director Farhana Khera mentioned the attack. Instead, they lamented what they asserted was growing anti-Muslim rhetoric and anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Khera did address last month’s attacks in Paris, in which ISIS affiliates killed 130 people. But rather than decry the attackers or their radical Islamist ideology, she complained that the incursion has created a “decidedly disturbing uptick in anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
And Lynch, who replaced Eric Holder as the nation’s top law enforcement official in April, appeared to agree.
“I think you could not have touched on a more timely issue,” she said, while also asserting that she has seen “an incredibly disturbing rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric” in both Europe and the U.S.
While saying that her “greatest fear” is that anti-Muslim rhetoric will led to violence against Muslims, Lynch reassured Muslim Advocates that the Justice Department will prosecute cases in which that occurs.
“Where we do see anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions turn into violence, we do take action,” Lynch said.
“As we talk about the importance of free speech we [must] make it clear that actions predicated on violent talk are not America. They are not who we are, they are not what we do, and they will be prosecuted,” she added.
This post has been updated with additional remarks from Lynch.