Anti-Muslim Incidents In U.S. Break Records, According To New Report

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the country’s largest Muslim civil rights group, received more complaints of anti-Muslim incidents in 2023 than it has in any other year since it began recording cases 30 years ago.

The group received 8,061 complaints nationwide, according to a report published Tuesday, “Fatal: The Resurgence of Anti-Muslim Hate.” CAIR documented 5,156 complaints in 2022 and 6,720 in 2021, which was the previous record.

CAIR records a variety of incidents, including hate crimes and employment and education discrimination.

Nearly half of the 2023 complaints ― 3,578 ― were reported in the last three months of the year, which the report notes points to the war in Gaza as the primary driver behind the dramatic increase in anti-Muslim sentiment. After Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing roughly 1,200 people and taking 250 hostages, Israeli forces launched a full-scale attack in the Gaza Strip, killing nearly 33,000 Palestinians so far, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

Since then, Muslim and Palestinian Americans have faced severe backlash. In Vermont, three Palestinian students were shot while on a walk, an incident the state’s attorney in Burlington called “a hateful act.” In Illinois, a 6-year-old Palestinian American boy was stabbed to death and his mother was hospitalized in a hate crime by their landlord, who was angered over the Israel-Hamas war. In February, a passerby attempted to rip away a Palestinian keffiyeh scarf hanging out of a car window and stabbed a Palestinian American man.

The wave of Islamophobia that has taken place since Oct. 7 is even greater than the one the U.S. saw after then-President Donald Trump implemented his Muslim travel ban in 2017.

The report notes that anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism is not synonymous with Islamophobia but says that “Muslim and Arab identities have long been conflated, particularly by those who seek to villainize both, making anti-Muslim hate part and parcel of anti-Arab, and specifically, anti-Palestinian racism.”

After the war began in October, employment discrimination, hate crimes and education discrimination were the three highest categories of Islamophobia, making up 44% of the total complaints received. In 2023, CAIR recorded 607 reports of hate incidents, up from 117 in 2022.

Activists, students and everyday people across the country reported being intimidated, harassed or doxxed for their pro-Palestine activism. College students, particularly Arabs and Muslims, said they felt unsafe and unsupported by their universities. Some said they have lost their jobs over their social media posts.

“The campaign of anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Palestinian racism that has emerged to target really all and any support of Palestinian human rights from October to the present day has significantly affected the safety of American Muslims, Arabs and Palestinian communities across the United States,” said Farah Afify, CAIR’s research and advocacy coordinator.

Muslim and Arab groups across the country have criticized the White House for not calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, as well as for not forcefully calling out the human rights violations against Palestinians by Israeli forces and the subsequent bigotry that has been seen in the U.S. During the Democratic primary season, many Muslim and Arab voters have opted to choose “uncommitted” on their ballots rather than vote for President Joe Biden.

“This wave of Islamophobia that we’re seeing right now is just a precursor. We have a choice of either quietly accepting the people we picked to represent us endorsing this kind of garbage, or we can as a nation decide to call them out for it,” said Corey Saylor, CAIR’s research and advocacy director.

Anti-Muslim bigotry will likely get worse if Democrats don’t push for meaningful changes in Gaza and make amends with Muslim and Arab groups in the U.S.

“Political leaders have to come out forcefully, not just against Islamophobia and against anti-Palestinian racism, but also to come out forcefully for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza so that the lives of Muslims Arabs and Palestinians across the world can be protected,” Afify said.