This week the Council on American-Islamic Relations released its annual report The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States 2004. Newspapers (the Washington Post in particular) dutifully gave prominent play to CAIRs claim that hate crimes against Muslims increased 70 percent in 2003. Little skepticism, however, was applied to CAIRs shoddy information-gathering or its politicized interpretation of the data.
Media credulousness is perhaps the strongest evidence that American society is wallowing in gentleness. When someone claims to have been wounded, journalists (the great Victorian Gentleman in Tom Wolfes classic formulation) dont question the witness. Even when the witness clearly has an axe to grind, as CAIR does. Yet common sense begs us to look askance at the evidence gathered by CAIR, which relies entirely on self-reporting.
CAIRs form for reporting an bias incident is available online. Although the instructions emphasize contacting the police first, and suggest enclosing official supporting documentation, its not even clear how one would do so. The annual report seldom references such documentation. Which is not surprising, given how CAIRs information-gathering process works: If someone merely emails CAIR with a message to the effect that they were the victim of bias, another hate crime is tallied, no matter its seriousness or credibility.
Its almost humorous what tiny offenses pass as worthy of complaint in the CAIR report. That a student at the University of Houston saw flyers and posters with false and degrading statements about the Quran and the prophet Muhammad is apparently a civil rights matter. That a College Republican at Roger Williams in Rhode Island wrote in a student publication that a true Muslim is taught to slay infidels is treated with similar gravity.
Finally, some of CAIRs complaints dont even pass the laugh test: A mother called CAIR California to report that on March 14th a school coach barred her daughter from participation in the badminton team because she wears a hijab. Never mind the sourcing problemit doesnt take great powers of imagination to foresee hijab problems cropping up in high school sports programs. The most unintentionally funnyand weirdly sadincident in the entire report is contained in a Newsday article included in the appendix: A Muslim woman shopping in a Brooklyn toy store was assaulted by a man who slurred Arabs and flung a Mr. Potato Head at her, police said yesterday. The suspects father later said his son apparently acted out of grief because a friend in Israel had been killed by a suicide bomber in Israel.