2007 Civil Rights Report: Presumption of Guilt

Executive Summary

Since 1996, prompted by the anti-Muslim backlash that followed the 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has issued an annual report on the status of American Muslim civil rights.

Each year, CAIR’s civil rights report has shown an increase in the number of total reported incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim bias, discrimination, harassment, threats, and physical attacks. Unfortunately, CAIR’s 2007 report continues that disturbing trend.

In 2006, CAIR processed a total of 2,467 civil rights complaints, compared to 1,972 cases reported to CAIR in 2005. This constitutes a 25.1 percent increase in the total number of complaints from 2005.

CAIR received 167 reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes, a 9.2 percent increase from the 153 complaints received in 2005.

Overall, 10 states accounted for almost 81 percent of all civil rights complaints to CAIR in 2006. These states 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 however a few decreases, both in 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.

One of the most significant increases involved the category dealing with government agencies, which rose sharply from 19.22 percent in 2005 to 36.32 percent in 2006. This increase was due primarily to the number of cases related to major immigration issues such as citizenship and naturalization delays.

The depth of the citizenship delay problem was recently highlighted by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at the New York University School of Law. The NYU report states that, “Delays in the citizenship process implicate discrimination on grounds that are prohibited under international law.”

CAIR has joined with several national human rights organizations to help litigate these citizenship delay cases to ensure that the legal rights of all Americans are protected. From cases nationwide, CAIR is helping to ensure that those who have honored the legal process to become Americans are afforded the right to ensure the expediting of this process.

American citizens have also been victims of overzealous governmental actions in regard to border crossings and terrorism “watch lists.” According to The New York Times, in response to American Muslim citizens desire to see an efficient system, many Americans “want increased Congressional oversight of the terrorist watch list system to insure that the [government] is not abusing the basic civil rights of United States citizens at the borders.”

Also in 2006, several key polls indicated that the level of Islamophobia continues to rise today in American society. An August 2006 USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 39 percent of Americans felt at least some prejudice against Muslims. The same percentage favored requiring Muslims, including American citizens, to carry a special ID “as a means of preventing terrorist attacks in the United States.” Most surprising was the fact that 22 percent of those polled for the USA Today/Gallup poll said they would not want American Muslims as neighbors.