Commentary Magazine


Topic: hate crimes

FBI Stats Again Belie Islamophobia Myth

When it comes to the question of America’s alleged Islamophobia, there is a consensus in the American media: American Muslims have been under siege since the 9/11 attacks. Every attempt on the part of law-enforcement agencies to probe the growth of homegrown terrorism and the possible incitement to hate and violence being conducted at some mosques, as well as by community groups influenced or controlled by Islamists, is branded as more proof of the allege persecution of Muslims and Arabs. The fact that no proof of discrimination or systematic violence other than anecdotal claims is ever brought forward is disregarded so as not to impinge on the need for Americans to feel guilty about the treatment of Muslims.

But with the annual release of the FBI’s hate crime numbers, statistical proof is once again available for those who are interested in the real answer as to which groups are subjected to the most attacks. This year’s numbers, like those of every other previous year since they began compiling such statistics, are clear: Jews remain the No. 1 target of hate crimes in America and no other group comes even close. Incidents involving Muslims, who are, according to the unchallenged meme that is central to every story or broadcast about the subject, the prime targets actually suffer only a fraction as much as Jews. Is it too much to ask reporters who regurgitate the same tired, unproven story lines about Muslims in the coming year to take these facts into account?

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When it comes to the question of America’s alleged Islamophobia, there is a consensus in the American media: American Muslims have been under siege since the 9/11 attacks. Every attempt on the part of law-enforcement agencies to probe the growth of homegrown terrorism and the possible incitement to hate and violence being conducted at some mosques, as well as by community groups influenced or controlled by Islamists, is branded as more proof of the allege persecution of Muslims and Arabs. The fact that no proof of discrimination or systematic violence other than anecdotal claims is ever brought forward is disregarded so as not to impinge on the need for Americans to feel guilty about the treatment of Muslims.

But with the annual release of the FBI’s hate crime numbers, statistical proof is once again available for those who are interested in the real answer as to which groups are subjected to the most attacks. This year’s numbers, like those of every other previous year since they began compiling such statistics, are clear: Jews remain the No. 1 target of hate crimes in America and no other group comes even close. Incidents involving Muslims, who are, according to the unchallenged meme that is central to every story or broadcast about the subject, the prime targets actually suffer only a fraction as much as Jews. Is it too much to ask reporters who regurgitate the same tired, unproven story lines about Muslims in the coming year to take these facts into account?

As in previous years, Jews top the figures for hate crimes, which the FBI claims are down from previous years. Of the 1,340 incidents of anti-religious hate crimes reported, 674 or 62.4 percent were anti-Jewish in nature. Only 130 incidents or 11.6 percent involved Muslim victims. These figures are not much different from those assembled by the government for previous years. In virtually every year, the number of anti-Semitic incidents is a multiple of those involving Muslims.

It is possible that some anti-Muslim attacks might be categorized as an ethnic issue involving Arabs rather than a religious one. But even if we were to try and take some attacks involving national origins, again the enormous gap between the anti-Semitic incidents and those about Muslims is not bridged. The total number of those attacks involving that category that were not about targeting Hispanics (which make up over 60 percent of that total) was 283 and it is likely that, at best, only some of those were about Muslims or Arabs.

It is true that the Anti-Defamation League has criticized the FBI report for trumpeting the overall decline in hate crimes. The ADL rightly points out that hate crimes reporting isn’t mandatory in parts of the country and that the number of agencies funneling figures to the FBI actually declined from 14,500 to 1,3022 in 2012. So it’s likely that there wasn’t any real decline in the number of hate crimes.

But there is no proof or any logical reason to believe that this flaw would lead to any underreporting of anti-Muslim crimes since the percentage of such incidents in 2012 is essentially the same as in previous years.

What does this all mean?

First, as much as we should decry all hate crimes and urge those responsible to be prosecuted and harshly punished, no matter who their victims might be, there is no epidemic of such incidents directed at any single group.

Though Jews are the most likely victims of religious crimes, no reasonable person can claim that they are under siege or that Jewish life is under attack in any manner in this country. Indeed, as the Pew Survey on American Jews that I discussed in the November issue of COMMENTARY reported, less than 20 percent of Jews have even experienced an anti-Semitic remark, let alone an attack. Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world and particularly in Europe, but in a nation where a tenth of the U.S. Senate and a third of the U.S. Supreme Court are Jews, its impossible to argue that there are any genuine obstacles to Jewish achievement, let alone a wave of Jew-hatred.

Yet, we are asked by the mainstream media to believe that a group which claims to have roughly the same small slice of the national population as the Jews but which, at best, suffers only a fifth of the hate crimes incidents as Jews, is actually laboring under a grievous and discriminatory wave of bias attacks. It not only makes no sense, it is not even remotely congruent with the facts.

America isn’t perfect. Hate still exists against religious and ethnic groups, and religious minorities. Yet once again the annual release of FBI statistics debunks the notion of a post 9-11 backlash against Muslims. But don’t expect the liberal mainstream media to notice this or to take it into account when they resurrect the same misleading story lines in the coming year.

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Holder’s Post-9/11 Backlash Myth

Attorney General Eric Holder left out an important detail from his speech today in which he scolded Americans about not repeating their alleged bias toward Muslims after 9/11. He was on firm ground when he rightly denounced any “misguided acts of retaliation” against Muslims after the Boston Marathon bombing. But in resurrecting the myth that Arabs and Muslims suffered a post-9/11 backlash by an America that was driven to prejudice by terrorism, the top law enforcement official in the nation forgot to tell a gathering of the Anti-Defamation League that attacks against Muslims have been statistically insignificant after 2001 and remain far below the level of reported attacks and incidents involving anti-Semitism.

Ironically, the head of his host organization—which is celebrating its centennial—pointed this out in an interview just this past weekend in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. Foxman effectively debunked Holder in advance when he said the following:

“There are ten times as many acts directed against Jews as there are against Muslims,” Foxman says. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t animosity toward Muslims, but even after Boston, you’re not seeing attacks against mosques, you’re not seeing people demonstrating in the streets. That’s something very unique in this country. It’s almost a miracle. It would never happen in Europe.”

He continues, “When people applauded in Boston that the terrorists were captured, there was no negative [repercussion]. The same thing happened after 9/11 – we were so concerned at the time that we took out an ad in the New York Times: ‘You don’t fight hate with hate.’ But it didn’t happen. And it’s not happening now. And that drives the Islamophobes crazy. It drives them nuts.”

Foxman’s right. It didn’t happen after 9/11 and it’s not happening now, which makes the disapproving tone of Holder’s diatribe somewhat suspicious. As I pointed out in an article in COMMENTARY in 2010 on the impact of the post-9/11 backlash myth on the Ground Zero mosque controversy, though the idea of a wave of discriminatory attacks against Muslims has been mentioned so often in the media that it has become an accepted truth, it isn’t borne out by the record. Every subsequent release of FBI hate crime statistics tells the same story: attacks against Jews far outnumber those against Muslims and Arabs even during the periods when the latter were supposedly under siege.

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Attorney General Eric Holder left out an important detail from his speech today in which he scolded Americans about not repeating their alleged bias toward Muslims after 9/11. He was on firm ground when he rightly denounced any “misguided acts of retaliation” against Muslims after the Boston Marathon bombing. But in resurrecting the myth that Arabs and Muslims suffered a post-9/11 backlash by an America that was driven to prejudice by terrorism, the top law enforcement official in the nation forgot to tell a gathering of the Anti-Defamation League that attacks against Muslims have been statistically insignificant after 2001 and remain far below the level of reported attacks and incidents involving anti-Semitism.

Ironically, the head of his host organization—which is celebrating its centennial—pointed this out in an interview just this past weekend in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. Foxman effectively debunked Holder in advance when he said the following:

“There are ten times as many acts directed against Jews as there are against Muslims,” Foxman says. “That doesn’t mean that there isn’t animosity toward Muslims, but even after Boston, you’re not seeing attacks against mosques, you’re not seeing people demonstrating in the streets. That’s something very unique in this country. It’s almost a miracle. It would never happen in Europe.”

He continues, “When people applauded in Boston that the terrorists were captured, there was no negative [repercussion]. The same thing happened after 9/11 – we were so concerned at the time that we took out an ad in the New York Times: ‘You don’t fight hate with hate.’ But it didn’t happen. And it’s not happening now. And that drives the Islamophobes crazy. It drives them nuts.”

Foxman’s right. It didn’t happen after 9/11 and it’s not happening now, which makes the disapproving tone of Holder’s diatribe somewhat suspicious. As I pointed out in an article in COMMENTARY in 2010 on the impact of the post-9/11 backlash myth on the Ground Zero mosque controversy, though the idea of a wave of discriminatory attacks against Muslims has been mentioned so often in the media that it has become an accepted truth, it isn’t borne out by the record. Every subsequent release of FBI hate crime statistics tells the same story: attacks against Jews far outnumber those against Muslims and Arabs even during the periods when the latter were supposedly under siege.

To note this is not to sanction bias against Muslims. No one should hold any individual responsible for the actions of the ethnic or religious group to which they belong, let alone crimes committed by a small minority, as is the case with American Muslims. Hate crimes of any sort are despicable and deserve severe punishment. But the false narrative of anti-Muslim discrimination fostered by radical groups that purport to speak for that community is intended to do more than squelch bias. The purpose is to forestall any effort to bring those sectors of the Muslim community under scrutiny for their role in the growth of Islamist extremism and homegrown terrorism on our shores.

Holder, who never mentioned that the Tsarnaev brothers were Muslim in his speech, is doing neither the country nor Muslims any favor by playing this card. Falsely labeling all investigations of Islamist groups and mosques in this country as nothing more than prejudice has become a standard trope in the aftermath of every instance of terror conducted by radical Muslims in the United States. In doing so, those promoting this distorted version of history have hampered counter-terror operations and made it more difficult for the responsible and law-abiding Muslim majority to reject the radicals in their midst.

The only way to end this cycle of extremism is for the government and the media to stop being so frightened of being labeled as bigots and to empower American Muslims to cast out the Islamists in their midst. Until that happens, we will continue to rerun the same tired script with the same tragic consequences.

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Backlash Against Muslims? Then Why Are Their Numbers Growing?

Most of the mainstream media still takes it as a given that there is an ongoing and brutal post-9/11 backlash against Muslims in America that fuels discrimination against followers of Islam. The fact that there is virtually no evidence for this assertion and much empirical data to argue for the opposite conclusion has not prevented liberals and radicals masquerading as the representatives of American Muslims to continue to claim the existence of a backlash. As we’ve previously noted, FBI hate crime statistics consistently show attacks on Muslims are rare and constitute a fraction of the far more prevalent bias crimes committed against Jews. Nor has the relative paucity of Muslim villains in popular culture or the reflexive support for Islam on the part of American leaders debunked the backlash myth.

Today, we have yet more evidence that the notion of a persecuted American Muslim community is fiction:

Data released Tuesday from the 2010 U.S. Religion Census shows Islam was the fastest growing religion in America in the last 10 years, with 2.6 million living in the U.S. today, up from 1 million in 2000.

Mormonism too saw remarkable growth, with a 45 percent increase in adherents. It added nearly 2 million members since 2000, bringing their number in the U.S. to 6.1 million.

“Both of these groups entered more than 200 counties that they weren’t in 10 years ago,” said Dale Jones, data analyst and mapping specialist for the Religion Census.

Is it possible or even likely that Islam would be thriving in the United States if it were not a society that is welcoming Muslims with open arms and providing a safe environment for people to openly practice this faith?

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Most of the mainstream media still takes it as a given that there is an ongoing and brutal post-9/11 backlash against Muslims in America that fuels discrimination against followers of Islam. The fact that there is virtually no evidence for this assertion and much empirical data to argue for the opposite conclusion has not prevented liberals and radicals masquerading as the representatives of American Muslims to continue to claim the existence of a backlash. As we’ve previously noted, FBI hate crime statistics consistently show attacks on Muslims are rare and constitute a fraction of the far more prevalent bias crimes committed against Jews. Nor has the relative paucity of Muslim villains in popular culture or the reflexive support for Islam on the part of American leaders debunked the backlash myth.

Today, we have yet more evidence that the notion of a persecuted American Muslim community is fiction:

Data released Tuesday from the 2010 U.S. Religion Census shows Islam was the fastest growing religion in America in the last 10 years, with 2.6 million living in the U.S. today, up from 1 million in 2000.

Mormonism too saw remarkable growth, with a 45 percent increase in adherents. It added nearly 2 million members since 2000, bringing their number in the U.S. to 6.1 million.

“Both of these groups entered more than 200 counties that they weren’t in 10 years ago,” said Dale Jones, data analyst and mapping specialist for the Religion Census.

Is it possible or even likely that Islam would be thriving in the United States if it were not a society that is welcoming Muslims with open arms and providing a safe environment for people to openly practice this faith?

The answer is an obvious “no.”

Those who have promoted this myth have yet to provide any objective analysis outside of their own assertions to back up their claim of a backlash or of any wave of discrimination or bias crimes. To the contrary, every new survey about American society continues to show there are no obstacles to Muslim advancement or systematic ill treatment.

In response, those who make these false claims argue that law enforcement activities seeking to root out Islamist support for terrorism either abroad or at home constitutes a form of discrimination. But such actions, such as the New York Police Department’s surveillance of mosques or community centers where Islamists have congregated, are reasonable reactions to a real threat that deserves the attention of the authorities, not the product of arbitrary bias. Nor do they threaten the vast majority of Muslims who are hard working, law-abiding citizens.

America is not perfect, but it is a far safer place to practice Islam, or any other faith, than almost all Muslim countries, where religious-based discrimination is commonplace and dissent is ruthlessly wiped out. The backlash myth may die hard, but it remains a myth.

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