The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today released data showing an “unprecedented” increase in complaints of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias in the month since the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine.
In the four weeks covering October 7 through November 4, CAIR’s national headquarters and chapters received a total of 1,283 requests for help and reports of bias, which is a 216 percent increase over the previous year.
In an average 29-day period in 2022, CAIR received only 406 complaints. People submitting complaints include a wide variety of Americans, including public school and college students, doctors and other workers, protestors, and mosques.
In a statement, CAIR Research and Advocacy Director Corey Saylor said:
“Both Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism are out of control in ways we have not seen in almost ten years. The 1,283 complaints we have received over the past month represents a 216 percent increase in requests for help and reports of bias.
“The Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian rhetoric that have been used to both justify violence against Palestinians in Gaza and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights here in America has contributed to this unprecedented surge in bigotry.
“American Muslims are facing the largest wave of Islamophobic bias that we have documented since then-candidate Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban announcement in December 2015. Political leaders, corporations, media outlets, civic organizations and others all have a role to play in ending this surge in bigotry.”
CAIR’s national headquarters received 248 of the 1,283 total complaints incoming requests for help and complaints of bias between 10/7 and 11/4. CAIR chapters received the rest of the complaints.
At the national headquarters, First Amendment issues (23.39%), violations of an individual’s right to free speech and expression, were the top reported case type. This was followed by employment (20.56% reports), hate crimes (15.32% reports) and education and bullying (9.2% reports).
In addition to the complaints CAIR directly receives, the civil rights organization has been tracking publicly reported incidents of bias directed at the Muslim or Palestinian communities.
Such incidents include at least one murder, two attempted murders, numerous violent threats, the use of vehicles as weapons to target protesters, and incidents involving guns being discharged or brandished to threaten supporters of Palestinian human rights.
Saylor said it is well past time for President Biden to call for a ceasefire, noting that the violence overseas is contributing to unrest here at home, and urgently requires his intervention. In 2001, then President Bush visited a mosque and called for calm as a wave of Islamophobic bias impacted Americans of the Islamic faith.
Earlier this year, CAIR reported receiving 5,156 total complaints nationwide in all of 2022. At the time, this generated cautious optimism as it represented the first decrease in complaints since CAIR started reporting numbers in the 1990’s.
A SAMPLE OF PUBLICLY REPORTED INCIDENTS
These are preliminary reports and will be updated as additional facts become available. Below is a representative sample of incidents. It includes examples from public reporting, not just examples of complaints or requests for help CAIR has received. It is not comprehensive.
Murder, threats of murder, and assaults using a vehicle. On October 15, six-year-old Chicago resident Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed 26 times by a man who targeted the boy and his mother for their Muslim identity. The mother also suffered injuries. In Michigan, a man was arrested after he asked others to “go to Dearborn & hunt Palestinians.” In Bridgeview, Illinois a resident received a note saying Muslims must leave the suburb or “die.” During the week of October 9, a Palestinian family reportedly received multiple death threats to their place of business, including “We’ll kill all you Palestinians.” On October 12, at a protest in support of Palestinians affected by the conflict, a man reportedly shouted obscenities about Palestinians before swerving his vehicle to hit a demonstrator on a bicycle in Ohio. On October 22, a man reportedly drove his vehicle through protestors supporting Palestinian human rights and then brandished both a box cutter and a knife in Minnesota.
Guns discharged or brandished. CAIR has also received multiple reports of weapons, particularly guns, discharged or displayed against Muslims and/or Palestinians. A man reportedly shot a bullet through a family home in Colorado. On October 13, a man pulled out a handgun and pointed it at demonstrators during a peaceful rally in support of Palestinian rights in Pennsylvania. Also on October 13, a New York city area councilwoman was arrested after carrying a handgun to a protest for Palestinian rights.
Incidents Targeting College Students. Students expressing their support for Palestinian rights have faced extreme consequences for their activism. Over the last several weeks, digital trucks publicizing personal information of students who have called for recognition of Palestinian rights have driven around college campuses, namely Harvard and Columbia University. On at least one occasion, a truck visited the family home of a 20-year-old student in Massachusetts.
CAIR has also seen the emergence of anonymous sites targeting students. In one instance, there was a Google sheet that documented the names, biographical information, and social media accounts of nearly 100 students to publicly shame them. The sheet was removed for violating Google’s policies.
These attempts at cyberbullying have been reinforced by public calls targeting students by major corporate leaders and other organizations. Notably, Pershing Square Capital Management CEO Bill Ackman called to have students blacklisted from future career opportunities due to their beliefs. Multiple other CEOs, including those at FabFitFun, EasyHealth, Dovehill Capital Management, and Sweetgreen, have publicly supported him in threatening the careers of students who share their concern over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Other corporate leaders have privately attempted to pressure universities to silence students.
The Anti-Defamation League has also released a statement calling on 650 colleges and universities to target pro-Palestinian student groups. The American Civil Liberties Union “blasted” the move saying “accusations against [Student Justice for Palestine] were made without evidence, and that their activism on campus is constitutionally protected by the First Amendment.”
Incidents Targeting Schools and K-12 Students. On October 12 and 13, a man drove into a school parking lot and yelled death threats at parents in New Jersey. Also in New Jersey, after students made pro-Palestinian statements, “Parents then circulated photos of the students in online forums and also began harassing Muslim American students in school, according to the organization.” Parents representing an estimated 500 families with ties to the Gaza strip noted that Los Angeles schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s social media postings supporting Israel made their children targets for bullying.
Targeting Place of Employment. Attempts at silencing Muslim and Palestinian voices have also extended to places of employment. Sites have emerged online to intimidate employees who express support for humanitarian relief in Gaza. One site published more than 17,000 posts concerning employees of major corporations, such as Amazon and Mastercard. In Washington, DC, an American University employee who is of Palestinian descent reportedly found a note in his office that said, ““Go back where you came from. You might get lucky with a missile, and meet your Allah sooner! Death to all Palestinians!” A Muslim woman was censored at work for posting in support of Palestinian liberation, while the owner posted anti-Palestinian speech saying, “You deserve EVERYTHING that is coming for you!!!!! You SICK ANIMALS,” with no consequences.
Incidents Targeting Journalists. Multiple journalists have also been fired or threatened by various networks due to their support for Palestinian rights. Sports reporter Jackson Frank was fired by PhillyVoice after expressing solidarity with the people of Palestine. Samira Nasr, the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, experienced backlash and threats to her career after posting against Israel’s cutting of access to water and power in Gaza. Editor-in chief of eLife Michael Eisen was let go after reposting a cartoon supportive of Palestinians from The Onion, a satirical website. Both Al Jazeera and Newsweek have produced lists of journalists who have faced consequences for supporting Palestinians.
Public Officials Deploying Anti-Arab and Islamophobic Stereotypes or Dehumanizing Palestinians. President Biden deployed a common anti-Arab and Islamophobic stereotype when he asserted: “I have no notion that the Palestinians are telling the truth about how many people are killed.” According to other reports, “the State Department has regularly cited ministry statistics without caveats in its annual human rights reports. Moreover, “the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which tracks deaths in the conflict, has found the ministry’s numbers to be reliable after conducting its own investigation.” U.S Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) falsely said a reputable Texas-based Muslim religious leader is biased against an ethnic group. U.S. Representative Brian Mast (R-FL) compared Palestinians to Nazis and says “there are very few innocent Palestinian citizens.”