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From this nation’s birth, our leaders recognized the danger religious discrimination could pose to the general peace of society. This recognition is found throughout our founding fathers’ speeches and writings, is memorialized in the United States Constitution, and has been continuously addressed for over 200 years. Yet our society currently finds itself embroiled in a level of religious prejudice and animosity not seen for many decades, a prejudice and animosity primarily directed at the Muslim community.

Numerous factors have created the widespread misunderstanding of Islam and Muslims that exists among most Americans today. They include but are not limited to: heavily funded bigoted anti-Islam campaigns attempting to generate hate against the Muslim community; political officials and candidates for office claiming that Muslims are unable to follow the United States Constitution, and are so dangerous that they must be banned from the country or placed in internment camps; and national 24 hour news networks that focus primarily on the extreme minority of Muslims engaging in terrorist activities while almost never showing the counter narrative of the 1.5 billion plus Muslims around the world who are non-violent and peaceful.

Ultimately, the misunderstandings and hateful rhetoric have led a segment of Americans to develop an irrational fear and hatred of Muslims. This fear is commonly referred to as Islamophobia and is at the heart of the high level of discrimination and harassment faced by American Muslims here in California and across the globe, the consequences of which are detailed in this report.

CAIR-California’s Civil Rights Team works tirelessly to assist the American Muslim community as their first responder against such hate and animosity. Four offices across the state provide support for American Muslims in California. These offices are located in the Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA), the Sacramento Valley (CAIR-SV), San Diego (CAIR-SD), and the San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA). In 2015 these offices assisted over 1,000 community members with grassroots advocacy and free of charge legal services, including filing a lawsuit against the United States Government for discriminating against, harassing, and assaulting a 77-year-old gentleman while he was detained in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody.

CAIR-California also gives dozens of community empowering “Know Your Rights” (KYR) presentations at mosques, schools, and community centers across the state. These presentations empower American Muslims to respond when faced with civil rights abuses, and educate allies outside the American Muslim community on the current climate of hate and discrimination that their Muslim co-workers, classmates, and neighbors are subjected to on a regular basis.

There is much more work to do here at CAIR-California to temper the fevered pitch of animosity that exists today towards Muslims, and to advocate on behalf of those whose lives are thrown into disarray as a result of hate and discrimination. But thanks to the steadfast support of our community, we can continue to fight for the civil rights of all Americans and ensure the continued peace of our beautifully diverse society in the great state of California.

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