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CAIR says it received more than 8,000 complaints of anti-Muslim bias in 2023 – a 56% increase over previous year

<i>Fatih Aktas/Anadolu/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Protesters holding banners and Palestinian flags gather in front of New York City Hall to stage a demonstration in support of Palestinians in October 2023.
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Protesters holding banners and Palestinian flags gather in front of New York City Hall to stage a demonstration in support of Palestinians in October 2023.

By Nicole Chavez, CNN

(CNN) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Tuesday it received 8,061 complaints of anti-Muslim bias incidents last year – the highest number in the 28 years CAIR has tracked hate.

The nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group released its annual civil rights report, which documents incidents reported to CAIR and an analysis of the state of American Muslim civil rights.

“The new data confirms our worst suspicions: what we are witnessing since October 2023 is nothing short of the largest wave of anti-Muslim hate seen in this country in more than a decade,” Farah Afify, the report’s co-author and CAIR research and advocacy coordinator, said in a statement to CNN.

The number of complaints last year had a significant jump – 56% – from 2022, when the group said it received 5,156.

That year, however, was an aberration because it showed a significant drop in reports – the only such dip in the past 28 years. In 2021, for instance, the number of incidents reported was 6,720.

CAIR noted the main factor behind the increase in bias complaints was the Israel-Hamas war, which began in October. Just over 44% of the total 2023 complaints were reported in the last three months of the year, the group said.

CAIR said its local chapters and headquarters record incidents of bias using 20 different categories.  Overall, the top category in 2023 was complaints of immigration and asylum cases with 1,637 reports, followed by 1,201 reports of employment discrimination and 688 complaints of discrimination linked to education settings but excluding instances of bullying or sports discrimination, according to the new data.

Complaints were, however, broadly spread among the categories. “There are other types of cases that help paint a fuller picture of the experience of being a Muslim in the US,” Corey Saylor, CAIR’s research and advocacy director and one of the report’s authors, told CNN.

Saylor cited discrimination by financial institutions, a case of a court-appointed attorney making Islamophobic or racist social media posts, and law enforcement approaching people for being Muslim, their origin or speaking a language other than English.

The full breakdown of complaints made to CAIR and shared with CNN shows there were complaints tracked last year that fell under each of the categories used by the group. In addition to several types of discrimination, other examples include bullying, hate crimes or incidents, placement on the terror watchlist and encounters with law enforcement.

But the wave of Islamophobia in the last months of the year had a significant impact on the workplace and education settings.

“Employers, universities, and schools were among the primary actors suppressing free speech by those who sought to vocally oppose Israel’s genocidal onslaught on Gaza and call attention to Palestinian human rights, particularly Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians,” the authors wrote in the report.

In the final months of 2023, there were 662 complaints of employment discrimination, 472 of hate crimes and incidents, and 448 of education discrimination, the data shows.

The report’s findings “represent the reality on the ground for Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians, who have been subjected to Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian rhetoric in virtually every sector of American society for vocalizing their support of Palestinian human rights,” Afify said.

“We suspect that, until we see our political leaders come out forcefully against Islamophobia and with substantive support for a permanent and immediate ceasefire in Gaza, we will continue to see horrifying attacks on American Muslim communities well into 2024.”

The group said the wave of Islamophobic bias surpassed the one tracked by CAIR following the implementation of the Trump administration’s travel ban on seven Muslim-majority nations in 2017, which saw a 32% jump over the previous year.

“These findings demonstrate that, even amid moments of perceived progress, Islamophobia persists as an underlying force that is always capable of reemerging to significantly impact the lives of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim,” the report’s authors wrote.

In its report, CAIR included a series of recommendations. The group urged public officials and corporate and education leaders who comment on the events in Israel and Palestine to give “equal weight and attention” to “Palestinian suffering.”

CAIR urged Congress to enhance anti-doxxing laws that limit the dissemination of personally identifying information on the internet. It says students and employees who expressed support for Palestinians in Gaza have been subjected to such intimidation in recent months.

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