Anti-Muslim incidents climbed sharply last year, civil rights group says

The Council on American-Islamic Relations reported a surge in complaints.

April 2, 2024, 12:13 PM

There was a huge surge in anti-Muslim bias incidents in 2023, the highest number of such incidents recorded in 30 years, according to the Council of American-Islamic Relations, the U.S.'s largest Muslim civil rights organization.

CAIR received a large number of complaints over anti-Muslim incidents last year, nearly half of which were reported in the last three months alone, after the Israel-Gaza war began on Oct. 7.

The group received a total of 8,061 complaints in 2023. The most common complaints CAIR received in 2023 were over immigration and asylum, 20% of all complaints, followed by employment discrimination, 15%; education discrimination, 8.5%; and hate crimes and incidents, 7.5%, according to the CAIR's annual civil rights report.

The surge in complaints comes one year after CAIR had marked a decline in the number of complaints it received -- just over 5,000 in 2022 versus 6,720 in 2021.

"As we wrote then, the report's findings could be considered a return to a 'pre-Trump administration baseline,' an indication of progress made toward mitigating the impact of Islamophobia in the US," according to the report.

"However, what was then welcomed as a 'positive sign' for the future of Muslim civil rights and civil liberties quickly disappeared as anti-Muslim hate resurged across the country in the final quarter of 2023," according to the report.

While the number of anti-Muslim bias incidents were at their highest recorded number in CAIR's history in 2023, the group did not track incidents in 2009 to 2013 or in 2018 and 2019.

PHOTO: Illustration
CAIR received a record-high number of complaints last year.
Council on American-Islamic Relations

The rise in anti-Muslim complaints comes as antisemitic hate crimes are also on the rise.

Antisemitic hate crimes rose 25% from 2021 to 2022, according to statistics released by the FBI. Officials have also warned that there has been a rise in antisemitism after the Hamas attack, part of an ongoing increase around the world.

An increase in both antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes was seen in America's largest and most diverse city, New York, after Oct. 7, as well, according to police statistics.

There were 11 confirmed anti-Muslim hate crimes in New York City from Oct. 7, 2023, to Dec. 30, 2023, according to the NYPD, and 26 confirmed antisemitic hate crimes over the same time period -- a total of one anti-Muslim hate crime every 7.7 days, and one antisemitic hate crime every 3.3 days. There were just five confirmed anti-Muslim hate crimes from Jan. 1, 2023, to Oct. 6, 2023, according to the NYPD, and 49 confirmed antisemitic hate crimes (one every 5.7 days) over the same time period.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 73,000 others have been injured in Gaza since Oct. 7, amid Israel's ongoing ground operations and aerial bombardment of the strip, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Hamas launched a surprise terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, killing at least 1,200 people in Israel and taking 253 others hostage, according to Israeli officials.

PHOTO: Illustration
Nearly half of the complaints received last year were reported in the last three months.
Council on American-Islamic Relations

Among the alleged hate incidents documented in the report was the stabbing murder of 6-year-old Palestinian American Wadea Al-Fayoume, with his landlord in Chicago accused of the murder. According to his mother, the landlord yelled "you Muslims must die" before attempting to choke and stab her.

The landlord has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, two counts of a hate crime and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

In another incident, a Georgia teacher allegedly threatened to beat and behead a seventh grade Muslim student after the student asked about the teacher's Israeli flag, according to the CAIR report.

Speech at schools and universities

Employers, universities and schools were among the "primary actors suppressing free speech by those who sought to vocally oppose Israeli's genocidal onslaught on Gaza and call attention to Palestinian human rights," according to the report.

According to CAIR, employers reportedly fired employees who express political speech in support of Palestinian rights and threatened not to hire students who do the same.

PHOTO: In this Oct. 17, 2023, file photo, mourners attend a vigil for Wadea Al-Fayoume at Prairie Activity and Recreation center in Plainfield, Ill.
In this Oct. 17, 2023, file photo, mourners attend a vigil for Wadea Al-Fayoume at Prairie Activity and Recreation center in Plainfield, Ill.
Nam Y. Huh/AP, FILE

One such example given in the report was the reported firing of Dr. Maha Almasri, a Palestinian American woman, from her tutoring job in Florida. She said she was fired and her son was expelled from a private school after she criticized the Israeli government's military response in Gaza in posts on social media, according to the report.

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A Muslim teacher in Maryland was reportedly placed on administrative leave due to her expressed support for Palestinians in her email signature, despite other teachers having political speech in their signatures, according to the report. Prior to being placed on leave, an unknown individual allegedly tore her Palestinian flag from her car, the report said.

CAIR filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December on behalf of the teacher.

PHOTO: Pro-Palestinian protesters gather outside Radio City Music Hall ahead of a fundraiser for President Joe Biden, on March 28, 2024, in New York.
Pro-Palestinian protesters gather outside Radio City Music Hall ahead of a fundraiser for President Joe Biden, on March 28, 2024, in New York.
Leonardo Munoz/AFP via Getty Images

The report also pointed to universities' suspension of student chapters of National Students for Justice in Palestine as evidence of suppression of pro-Palestinian speech on college campuses.

The chancellor of the state university system of Florida issued an order deactivating all Students for Justice in Palestine chapters at public universities in the state, claiming the student groups provided "material support" to the terrorist group Hamas -- a claim the groups denied and that he later walked back. This prompted a lawsuit from CAIR challenging the order.

PHOTO: In this Jan. 25, 2024, file photo, Harvard students take part in a demonstration in support of Palestinians on the steps of the Widener Library in Harvard Yard, in Cambridge, Mass.
In this Jan. 25, 2024, file photo, Harvard students take part in a demonstration in support of Palestinians on the steps of the Widener Library in Harvard Yard, in Cambridge, Mass.
The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE

College campuses, like Harvard University, have been at the center of debate over the Hamas attack on Israel and Israel's subsequent the bombing of Gaza. Harvard students were put under a national spotlight after a group of student groups led by the Palestine Solidarity Committee issued a statement in October on the conflict saying that the Israeli regime is "entirely responsible for all unfolding violence."

"Today's events did not occur in a vacuum. For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to 'open the gates of hell,' and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced. Palestinians in Gaza have no shelters for refuge and nowhere to escape. In the coming days, Palestinians will be forced to bear the full brunt of Israel's violence," the Harvard student groups said in their statement last year.

In response to the statement, a conservative organization called Accuracy in Media launched a doxxing campaign -- releasing personal and private information about individuals online without their consent -- against students in groups that signed onto the letter. The organization also paid for a truck on campus displaying names and faces of students with a banner labeling them as "Harvard's Leading Antisemites."

Pro-Palestinian students have since filed a civil rights complaint against Harvard, demanding an investigation. The Department of Education has launched a probe into Harvard for discrimination in response.

"We support the work of the Office of Civil Rights to ensure students' rights to access educational programs are safeguarded and will work with the office to address their questions," Jason Newton, director of media relations and communications at Harvard, said in a statement to ABC News.

Recommendations

In its report, CAIR also called on Congress to enhance anti-doxxing laws and place boundaries on the dissemination of peoples' private information with the intent to cause them harm.

"Doxxing has been employed to intimidate and silence pro-Palestinian advocates, often falsely reframing their legitimate critiques of Israeli state policy and calls for human rights for Palestinians as inherently hateful and therefore reprehensible speech. Such attempts at online harassment have in many cases succeeded in intimidating students and employees, who have experienced repercussions to their educational and career prospects due to doxxing," the report said.

PHOTO: Pro-Palestinian protestors shout outside the State Department as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with US Secretary of State Blinken, on March 25, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
Pro-Palestinian protestors shout outside the State Department as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant meets with US Secretary of State Blinken, on March 25, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA via Shutterstock

In its recommendations, CAIR called on the U.S. government to call for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza and adhere to the International Court of Justice's ruling ordering Israel to take measures to prevent genocidal acts and provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

CAIR also called on the Biden administration and Congress to require local law enforcement agencies to submit complete data on hate crime incidents targeting minority communities.

In a statement days after the Hamas attack, the Biden administration said "any hate crime is a stain on the soul of America."

President Joe Biden denounced the killing of Al-Fayoume saying, "We can't stand by and stand silent when this happens," in an Oval Office address.

"We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia," Biden said.

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