One of the standard tropes of mainstream-media discourse in the post-9/11 era is that American Muslims have been subjected to a backlash in which they have been subjected to discrimination and hate crimes. Though there was little or no actual statistical evidence of bias attacks or any sort of official discrimination, this notion that America is a hostile place for Muslims helped change the nature of the debate over the proposed Ground Zero Islamic Center and mosque that dominated the airwaves this past summer. Publications such as Time magazine asked, “Does America Have a Muslim Problem?” in August despite the fact that they could provide nothing but anecdotal evidence for their assumption that the answer to their query was an undoubted “yes.”
Though the success of this claim of Muslim victimhood was largely the result of successful propagandizing by groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is dedicated to promoting the idea that the United States is a foe of Islam, it has become a commonplace assumption that a post-9/11 anti-Muslim backlash was real and that anti-Muslim attacks in this country are a widespread and persistent phenomena. It is this assumption that was the foundation for the belief that a Ground Zero mosque dedicated to reminding Americans not to think ill of Muslims was not only appropriate but also necessary.
As I wrote in the October issue of COMMENTARY, FBI hate-crime statistics for the years 2000 to 2008 showed that not only were anti-Muslim bias crimes rare but that they were also far less numerous throughout this supposed period of a backlash than anti-Semitic bias crimes.
The release of the latest FBI report on hate crimes this week adds more weight to the doubts raised about the mythical backlash against Muslims. The new statistics published on the U.S. Department of Justice website show that there were only 107 reported incidents of anti-Islamic hate crimes in the country during 2009. While each incident (not only actual crimes are reported, as the total published by the FBI includes all those reported or alleged without respect to whether or not the crime was proved to have occurred) is deplorable, this represents only 8 percent of all religious-based bias crimes and less than 2 percent of hate crimes tabulated last year.
Even more to the point, the number of anti-Jewish hate crimes dwarfed again the number of anti-Islamic attacks, as they have every year since such statistics were first kept: 931 anti-Semitic incidents, compared with 107 anti-Islamic incidents, a ratio of better than 8 to 1. The same was true in 2008, when the figures were 1,013 anti-Jewish incidents to 105 anti-Muslim incidents. Indeed, even in 2001, the worst year for anti-Muslim hate crimes, there were still more than twice as many anti-Jewish incidents as those with anti-Islamic motivations. Throughout this period, the vast majority of hate crimes motivated by religion have been directed against Jews, not Muslims.
Despite the constant drumbeat of incitement from those extremists purporting to represent the interests of American Muslims, anti-Islamic hate crimes remain rare occurrences. The idea that anti-Muslim bigotry is a dominant theme in American society or that violent haters have disproportionately victimized believers in Islam is simply without foundation. And far from giving sanction to such bigotry, the hallmark of American discourse since 9/11 has been a conscious effort to disassociate Islam from the war being waged against the West by Islamist terrorists. The new statistics provide fresh proof that the claim of an anti-Muslim backlash is unfounded.