An annual report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations concludes that the total number of bias-related incidents against Muslims is up. But the report notes that anti-Muslim hate crimes declined in 2008.
The report 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.
CAIR says the organization processed 2,728 bias incidents in the United States in 2008, 3 percent more than in 2007.
The figure reflects the highest number of civil rights cases ever recorded in CAIR’s annual report. But CAIR says that may be due to the inclusion of a new category of cases related to mailed, faxed and e-mailed threats and hate messages.
The report also found that:
* 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.
CAIR wants the administration to review and revise guidelines issued by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey in late 2008 that allow racial and religious profiling. It also wants the administration to reduce the size of the watch list and to implement a program that allows travelers who believe they have been profiled to seek redress. President Obama is also asked to visit an American mosque.
CAIR is recommending that Congress pass the End Racial Profiling Act and the Fair, Accurate, Secure, and Timely Redress Act of 2009 to remove what a “legitimizing platform” to anti-Muslim bigots - a stance that raises free speech concerns.
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.
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. CAIR says before the real perpetrators were identified, Muslims nationwide were targeted in bias incidents.