As America approaches the fifth anniversary of the 9/11terror attacks, our society finds itself at a historic crossroads. Like all watershed events that have occurred throughout American history, the laws, policies and sociopolitical climate that our nation adopts during times of war has a long-lasting impact on all aspects of our society. At a time in which people of all faiths and races reflect on the enormity of 9/11 and honor the legacy of the victims of those tragic attacks, we must make certain that our government remains committed to the more than 200 years of American democratic ideals and constitutional principles. At the heart of these democratic ideals is the idea that all Americans are to be treated equally under the law regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status.
In 2005, CAIR processed a total of 1,972 civil rights complaints, compared to 1,522 cases reported to CAIR in 2004. This constitutes a 29.6 percent increase in the total number of complaints of anti-Muslim harassment, violence and discriminatory treatment from 2004. For the second straight year, the 1,972 reports also marks the highest number of Muslim civil rights complaints ever reported to CAI.R in its twelve-year history.
In addition, CAIR received 153 reports of anti-Muslim hate crime complaints, an 8.6 percent increase from the 141 complaints received in 2004. Overall, nine states and the District of Columbia accounted for almost 79 percent of all civil rights complaints to CAIR in 2005. These ten states are (in descending order): California (19%), Illinois (13%), New York (9%), Texas (8%), Virginia (7%), Florida (6%), District of Columbia (5%), Maryland (4%), Ohio (4%) and New Jersey (4%).
Although most categories either remained at the same levels or increased in frequency from last year’s report, there have also been a few decreases, both in real and proportional terms, in certain categories from the previous year. For example, civil rights complaints involving Muslim-owned business declined from 6.5 percent in 2004 to 1.57 percent in 2005.
Another notable decrease from last year, in both real and proportional terms, is in the realm of “due process” issues. Although this category decreased in proportional terms from 25% in 2004 to 17% in 2005, it still continues to represent the highest percentage of category type of alleged abuse affecting the civil rights of the American Muslim community. With almost five years of data at our disposal, it is clear that there remains a growing atmosphere of fear and hostility toward American Muslims, Arab-Americans and South Asians. Two recent polls indicate that almost half of Americans have a negative perception of Islam and that one in four of those surveyed have “extreme” anti-Muslim views.
An independent survey by CAIR showed that one-fourth (23 to 27 percent) of Americans consistently believe stereotypes such as: Muslims value life less than other people” and “The Muslim religion teaches violence and hatred.” Those with the most negative attitudes toward Islam tended to be older, less-educated and politically conservative.
A similar poll by the Washington Post and ABC News also found that one in four Americans “admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims.” That survey indicated that 46 percent of Americans have a negative view of Islam, a seven percent jump since the months following the 9/11 terror attacks. The Post-ABC poll also showed that the number of Americans who believe that Islam promotes violence has more than doubled since 2002. Along with the rise of Islamophohia, we have witnessed an increased demand by everyday Americans for information about Islam and the contributions of their American Muslim neighbors.
In response to global controversies like the Quran desecration story and Danish cartoon controversy, CA1R launched the “Explore the Quran” and “Explore Muhammad” campaigns in which we offered to distribute free copies of the Quran and DVDs of a PBS documentary on the life of Prophet Muhammad. Because of our proactive and positive campaigns, some 30,000 copies of the Quran were requested and over 14,500 copies of the DVD will be distributed to the general public.
CAIR continues to be encouraged to see that congressional inquiries, inspector general reports from federal agencies and impact litigation cases are used to ensure that the civil and legal rights of all Americans are protected and that every American is treated equally under the law, regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status.