December 3rd, 2009 14:10 EST
Jump in Anti-Muslim Bias Incidents
An annual report released today by a prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization shows an increase in the total number of bias-related incidents, but a decrease in anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2008.
The report by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), titled Seeking Full Inclusion, " offers a summary of incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment reported to the group during the 2008 calendar year. It also examines the use of Islamophobic rhetoric in the 2008 presidential election and highlights a number of issues of concern to the American Muslim community, including watch lists, surveillance of mosques and new FBI guidelines that allow religious and ethnic profiling.
To view the entire Seeking Full Inclusion " report, go here.
The introduction to CAIR`s report, the only annual study of its kind, states:
In 2008, Muslims continued to face barriers to their full and equal participation in American society. Certain individuals and institutions persisted in profiting by smearing Islam. American Muslims continued to fear profiling, surveillance and undue scrutiny by law enforcement and other authorities. "
CAIR and its affiliate chapters nationwide processed a total of 2,728 incidents in 2008. That figure represents a three percent increase in reported cases from 2007 (2,652 reports) and an 11 percent increase over cases reported in 2006 (2,467 reports). It is the highest number of civil rights cases ever recorded in CAIR`s annual report. (Note: The higher number of cases is due in part to inclusion of a new category of cases related to mailed, faxed and e-mailed threats and hate messages.)
According to CAIR`s study:
- The occurrence of reported civil rights complaints increased at mosques and Muslim organizations, rising from 564 cases in 2007 to 721 cases in 2008. This represents a 28 percent increase from 2007 to 2008.
- There were 118 reported cases of discrimination in schools in 2007 and 153 in 2008 -- a 31 percent increase.
- Anti-Muslim hate crime complaints fell by 14 percent in 2008, decreasing from 135 total complaints in 2007 to 116 in 2008.
The decline in reported hate crimes leads to cautious optimism, while the reported increase in incidents at Muslim institutions and at schools reminds us that continued vigilance and stepped-up community outreach efforts are necessary, " said CAIR Legislative Director Corey Saylor, one of the report`s authors.
Saylor said the report also offers recommendations for action by the Obama administration, Congress and American Muslim institutions.
The Obama administration is asked to 1) review and revise guidelines issued by then Attorney General Mukasey in late 2008 that allow racial and religious profiling, 2) to reduce the size of the watch lists, and 3) to implement effective means by which travelers who believe they have been profiled may seek redress. President Obama is also asked to visit an American mosque.
CAIR is recommending that Congress pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) and the Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Timely Redress Act of 2009 (FAST Redress Act of 2009), and not offer a legitimizing platform " to anti-Muslim bigots.
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Recommendations for the American Muslim community include timely reporting of anti-Muslim incidents, community empowerment through civic engagement and continued outreach to local and national law enforcement agencies.
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Overall, nine states and the District of Columbia accounted for 79 percent of all incidents reported to CAIR in 2008. These locations include: the District of Columbia (27 percent), California (18 percent), Illinois (9 percent), New York (5 percent), Florida (5 percent), Virginia (4 percent), Ohio (3 percent), Texas (3 percent), Minnesota (3 percent) and Pennsylvania (3 percent).
CAIR began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, when some commentators initially blamed Muslims for the bombing. Before the real perpetrators were identified, Muslims nationwide were targeted in bias incidents.
CAIR is America`s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.