Report Says Discrimination Against Muslims Still on Rise, Although Down From Post-9/11 Spike

Ben Evans, AP, December 4, 2008

Discrimination and hate crimes against Arab-Americans have dropped in recent years after a spike following the 9/11 attacks, but such prejudice is still more common than in the 1980s and 1990s, according to a report by an advocacy group.


The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee released the study Thursday, calling it the most comprehensive look at prejudice and racially motivated violence that Arab-Americans and Muslims faced in the United States between 2003 and 2007.

Mary Rose Oakar, the group’s president, said the level of prejudice became clear during this year’s presidential campaign, when critics of President-elect Barack Obama used false rumors that he was a Muslim as a line of attack.


The group collected data for the report on its own, in part using anecdotal information. But its hate crime numbers are consistent with those of the FBI, which reported about 140 victims of anti-Islamic hate crimes in 2007, up from about 40 in 1995 and down sharply from more than 500 in 2002.

The report cited delays at airports based on agents’ stereotypes or misleading “no fly” lists as a main source of discrimination, and said Arab-Americans are regularly subjected to long delays in immigration proceedings.


Some of the study’s harshest criticism was directed toward media outlets, which the report says have allowed bigotry to seep into mainstream discourse. {snip}

[Editor’s Note: The 2003-2007 edition of the ADC’s “Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Arab Americans.” can be read on-line or downloaded here.]

Washington, DC | December 4, 2008 | | Today, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) released the 2003-2007 edition of its “Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Arab Americans.” This definitive report on the condition of the Arab American community was made possible by The Ford Foundation and The Carnegie Corporation of New York, and can be read at:

In simply announcing the release of this report, ADC’s Communications Director received a number of hate email messages. One such message read, “Why do we not hear of these “hate crimes”. NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN all are in the pockets of the politically correct. Why not ONE news story? Could it be an overly sensitive Arab population who really doesn’t give a damn about the U.S.S. Cole, 9/11/2001, Khobar Towers? If you folks are so “hated” here why not go back to your own kind? Simple solution and I seriously doubt you’d be missed in this, the greatest of all countries.”


The report examines: hate crimes and discrimination; civil liberties concerns; discrimination and bias in primary and secondary educational institutions; discrimination and political harassment campaigns in higher education; defamation in the media; communication and cooperation between community organizations and government agencies; and recommendations for the future.

ADC’s report found that while the rate of violent hate crimes against the community (or those perceived to members of the community) has continued to decline from the immediate post 9/11 surge, but remains elevated from the years prior to 9/11. However, Arab Americans continue to face higher rates of employment discrimination in both the public and private sectors. At the press conference, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Lance Koury, a long-time member of the Alabama National Guard who for years has been subjected to a hostile and abusive work environment shared his story. Read his account here:

Discrimination at airports based on stereotyping, over-zealousness or prejudice by airline personnel or even other passengers is now one of the main sources of discrimination facing Arab-American air travelers. Arab-American travelers face serious issues with border crossing detentions and delays, especially on the U.S.-Canada border.

Arab-American students continue to face significant problems with discrimination and harassment in schools around the country. Arab-American students and faculty have faced increased levels of discrimination and political harassment campaigns, especially involving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and efforts by right-wing groups to stifle debate on U.S. foreign policy in academia.

Defamation in popular culture and the media remains a very serious problem facing the Arab-American community. In spite of a far better record from the film and television industry in 2003-2007, defamation spread wildly in the non-fiction world of television, magazines, radio, newspapers and websites. A campaign of relentless vilification against Muslims and Islam has been the single biggest contributor to the collapse in American public opinion of Islam during this period.

Civil liberties concerns remain serious, including the some aspects of the discourse on a homegrown terrorist threat, the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act, aspects of the REAL ID Act, secret evidence provisions, warrantless wiretapping and elements of immigration reform, among other issues.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE GOVERNMENT -It is imperative that the government continues to resist calls for racial or religious profiling, and recognize that counter-terrorism policies based on stigmatizing broad identity groups have failed, and will not provide reliable security in the future.

-Terrorism watch and “no fly” lists should be consolidated and rationalized between all agencies and kept to a manageable size. Effective mechanisms for challenging inclusion or distinguishing between persons supposed to be included as opposed to those with similar names, as well as processes allowing persons routinely falsely caught up with these lists, should be instituted to avoid unnecessary problems.

-The Customs and Border Protection (CBT) agency should create a civil rights division or a similar wing to deal with complaints and concerns, and the government should make every effort to explain customs and border procedures to the public whenever appropriate.

-The government should avoid any form of preventative detention, which has no place in the American legal system.

-All relevant agencies need to take steps to ensure that unnecessary naturalization and immigration status adjustment petitions are not unnecessarily delayed.

-In considering any potential homegrown terrorist threat, Congress and executive branch agencies should take every effort to avoid stigmatizing entire communities.

-Congress should also act to preserve civil liberties by repealing sections of the PATRIOT Act, curbing executive branch excesses such as warrantless wiretapping, and by ensuring that measures such as comprehensive immigration reform and immigration law enforcement generally do not violate the fundamental rights of any individual.

-The leaders of both parties in Congress should ensure that members of the House and Senate do not make bigoted or stereotyping remarks without censure or disciplinary action, whether formal or informal.

-Since this would be the single most positive step that the United States could take in promoting better relations with the Arab world and reversing the alienation between Arab and American societies, American foreign policy should prioritize resolving the conflict in the Middle East by at long last ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel in peace.


-Secondary and primary schools around the country should ensure that Arab-American students are not subject to any discrimination, abuse or harassment based on their ethnicity and that Arab culture or Islam is not the subject of disparaging or biased characterizations by faculty or in the curricula.

-Universities should protect faculty, especially untenured professors, from politically motivated campaigns of harassment and should resist outside efforts to interfere with tenure and promotion processes plainly designed to enforce political orthodoxy and stifle academic freedom and dissent.


-The entertainment industry should make every effort to continue the pattern of more balanced representations of Arabs and Muslims in American popular culture since the 9/11 terrorist attacks took place, and not revert to the unbalanced ethnic stereotyping that characterized earlier decades.

-The news media and publishers should employ a single standard of basic respect for all identity groups and communities regarding commentary that promotes racism, ethnic or religious intolerance and stereotyping. Censorship is unacceptable, but respectable news outlets properly draw limits on the kind of expression they deliberately invite for inclusion in public debates and quite appropriately maintain standards regarding fundamental propriety. Arab Americans and American Muslims should be treated with the same level of respect and decency as all other communities, within the context of a society that properly chooses to maximize the range of free speech. Needless to say, government should play no role in defining these standards and practices.


-Arab-American organizations and government agencies should continue to explore all available mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation whenever appropriate.

-Arab Americans should redouble their efforts to organize themselves as a community and engage the political system of our country at every level, both individually and as a collective.

-Arab Americans should expand their efforts at building coalitions with like-minded communities and organizations on all major issues of concern.

-Arab Americans, while vigilant in fighting stereotyping and discrimination, should be sensitive to and vehemently reject any extremism that may emerge from fringe elements within the community.

-Arab American parents should encourage their children to pursue professions in government service and the media if they are so inclined.

-Arab Americans should passionately promote public service within the community, and emphasize that they are proud and enthusiastic Americans when communicating with our fellow citizens.

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