A report released today by a prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group indicates a 25 percent increase in the total number of complaints of anti-Muslim bias from 2005 to 2006, with citizenship delays being the major issue.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) report — the only annual study of its kind — outlines 2,467 incidents and experiences of anti- Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in 2006, the highest number of civil rights cases ever recorded in the Washington-based group’s report. (Hundreds of anti-Muslim incidents reported immediately following the 9/11 attacks were detailed in a separate report.)
According to the study, called “Presumption of Guilt,” that total is a 25.1 percent increase over the preceding year’s total of 1,972 cases. One of the most significant increases is in the category dealing with government agencies, which rose sharply from 19.22 percent of total reports in 2005 to 36.32 percent in 2006. This increase was due primarily to the number of cases related to immigration issues such as citizenship and naturalization delays.
CAIR also received 167 reports of anti-Muslim hate crime complaints, a 9.2 percent increase from the 153 complaints received in 2005.
Nine states and the District of Columbia accounted for almost 81 percent of all civil rights complaints to CAIR in 2006. They include (in descending order): California (29 percent), Illinois (13 percent), District of Columbia (7 percent), Florida (7 percent), Texas (6 percent), New York (5 percent), Virginia (4 percent), Michigan (3 percent), New Jersey (3 percent) and Ohio (3 percent).
This year, most categories of reported cases remained relatively unchanged from last year’s report. There were a few decreases, in both real and proportional terms, in certain categories from the previous year. For example, civil rights complaints involving the workplace declined significantly from 25.41 percent in 2005 to 15.57 percent in 2006.
In the report, CAIR offers public policy recommendations to address anti- Muslim sentiments in American society. Those recommendations include: 1) asking elected representatives and religious and community leaders to speak out strongly against Islamophobia and to repudiate anti-Muslim bigots, 2) urging American Muslims to increase outreach and education efforts, 3) holding congressional hearings on the rising level of Islamophobia in America, 4) expediting the processing of citizenship/naturalization applications, and 5) adopting domestic and foreign polices that reflect American traditions of justice and respect for the human dignity of all people.
“Like the history of other minority groups in America, the experience of the American Muslim community after the tragedy of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is seen by many as the next chapter in American civil rights history,” said CAIR Legal Director Arsalan Iftikhar, the report’s author. “The findings in this report should serve as a reminder that discrimination is still a major issue in our nation.”
CAIR began documenting anti-Muslim incidents following the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The council is America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, with 33 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. 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.