Council on American-Islamic Relations civil rights report: Trump’s Muslim bans have fuelled Islamophobia

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 25: Zainab Chaudry (C) joins other supporters from The Council on American-Islamic Relations during a news conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court after the court heard oral arguments in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch February 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Samantha Elauf of Tulsa, Oklahoma, filed a charge of religious discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission saying Abercrombie & Fitch violated discrimination laws in 2008 by declining to hire her because she wore a head scarf, a symbol of her Muslim faith. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) has published its 2018 civil rights report, which provides “both hard numbers and real stories of impact on the lives of American Muslims” and “also functions as a benchmark of the status of American Muslim civil rights over time”. Thus, “it serves as a resource for the community, allied organizations, media professionals, and researchers”[1].

The report states the organisation, which is the USA’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group[2], “witnessed an increase in the onslaught of institutional and individual prejudice against American Muslims” in 2017[3]. There was a 17% increase from 2016 in anti-Muslim bias incidents nationwide and a 15% increase in anti-Muslim hate crime which includes that which targets children, youth, and families[4].

The main five types of abuse directed at Muslims in the USA were harassment, “Incidents in which the complainant was inappropriately targeted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection”, hate crimes, “Cases in which the FBI harassed or otherwise inappropriately targeted the complainant”, and employment discrimination[5]. The report contains case studies of incidences of this anti-Muslim bias to illustrate how they manifest[6].

The report notes, “Of particular alarm is the fact that federal government agencies instigated 35 percent of all anti-Muslim bias incidents recorded in 2017”. It states that this “represents an almost unprecedented level of government hostility toward a religious minority within the United States, and its counter to the American value of religious freedom”[7].

18% percent of the total number of anti-Muslim bias incidents which CAIR received during 2017 were related to the Muslim Ban introduced by Trump[8], and the report states that this and Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric has emboldened “those who sought to express their anti-Muslim bias and provided a veneer of legitimacy to bigotry in the public sphere”. CAIR also recorded high levels of anti-mosque incidents, some of which fall into the above categories[9].

The report observes that, largely due to the Muslim Ban executive order, “the most common location for an incident of anti-Muslim bias in 2017 was an air, bus, or train terminal, accounting for 20 percent of the total”. The second most frequent location was at a complainant’s residence, followed by commercial buildings, and schools[10].

The most prevalent trigger factor for anti-Muslim bias was the victim’s national origin or ethnicity, while the perpetrator’s perception of an individual as a Muslim both irrespective of and because of an identifying marker, such as a woman wearing a headscarf (the wearing of which was related to 13% of incidents). The Muslim Ban was the trigger event for 10% of incidents, while everyday Muslim community and family activities triggered 7% of incidents[11].

The report dedicates a section to describing the Islamophobic and unconstitutional nature of Trump’s Muslim Bans, and gives recommendations to elected officials and their constituents on how they can campaign against it[12]. It also identifies Trump himself as “a symbol of hate” whose rhetoric and policies are fuelling rising Islamophobia, as well as negatively affecting other minority groups[13].

The ‘Violating the First Amendment: Government Restrictions on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions’ section of the report details state government restrictions on First Amendment Rights introduced during 2017. These are specifically linked to restricting boycott movements which target Israel[14].

In addition, the report details CAIR’s legal challenges against unconstitutional policies and rulings in 2017, such as that against the “Terrorist Screening Database”, the federal watchlist for suspected terrorists. Many of these cases are still ongoing[15].

[1] CAIR, 2018, 3.

[2] Cision, 2018.

[3] CAIR, 2018, 5.

[4] CAIR, 2018, 6.

[5] CAIR, 2018, 7.

[6] CAIR, 2018, 21-25.

[7] CAIR, 2018, 6.

[8] CAIR, 2018, 6.

[9] CAIR, 2018, 5.

[10] CAIR, 2018, 13.

[11] CAIR, 2018, 13.

[12] CAIR, 2018, 27-33.

[13] CAIR, 2018, 35-37.

[14] CAIR, 2018, 39-41.

[15] CAIR, 2018, 42-51.

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CAIR. (2018) ‘Targeted: 2018 Civil Rights Report’. [online] [Accessed 25 April 2018].

Cision. (2018) ‘New CAIR Report: Trump’s Muslim Bans Increased Anti-Muslim Discrimination, Violence’. [online] 23 April. [Accessed 25 April 2018].