It has become an accepted trope of contemporary journalism that American Muslims are under siege and beset by hatred and prejudice. But the evidence for this conventional wisdom is lacking. The story line of Muslim persecution in the United States has always been a matter of anecdotes and perception, not facts. That truth was confirmed this week when the FBI released their annual crime statistics report which showed once again that hate crimes against Muslims remain rare and are far outnumbered by attacks on Jews.
The report is not perfect, since not all parts of the country do a good job compiling the data, but it provides an important snapshot of the state of the nation regarding bias crimes. But the numbers speak for themselves. In 2010, only 13.2 percent of religion-based attacks were directed at Muslims. By comparison, 65.4 percent of such crimes were directed at Jews. This shows a slight increase over the last two years (the raw numbers show 887 anti-Jewish attacks with only 160 anti-Muslim attacks), but is not a statistical fluke. In 2009, the FBI reported that 70.1 percent of religious-based hate crimes were anti-Jewish while only 9.3 percent were anti-Islamic. In 2008, the FBI said 66.1 percent were anti-Jewish while 7.5 percent were anti-Muslim. This has been true of every year in the past decade, even in 2001 when anti-Muslim crime spiked in the wake of 9/11. For all of the breast-beating about Islamophobia in this country, anti-Semitism remains a far greater problem.
As I wrote last year when I debunked the mythical backlash against Muslims in an article in the October 2010 issue of COMMENTARY, the notion of a rising wave of hatred against Muslims is unsupported by any statistical research. When you consider that Muslims claim to have about the same number of adherents in this country as Jews and that anti-Jewish crimes have always far outnumbered those committed against Muslims, the media hysteria about Islamophobia is exposed as a big lie. But even if there are fewer Muslims here than their groups claim, the conclusion is unchanged.
Because the far greater number of attacks on Jews is not viewed (even by those groups dedicated to monitoring anti-Semitism such as the Anti-Defamation League) as proof the country is boiling with hatred for Jews, how can anyone rationally argue that the far fewer number of assaults on Muslims can justify the conclusion that Islamophobia is rampant?
Muslims, who have had to labor under the burden of guilt-by-association with the 9/11 attacks and the rise of Islamist terror in the Middle East, cannot be blamed for worrying about perceptions of their community. Like every religious and ethnic minority, they face bias. There has been a disturbing and persistent record of home grown Islamic terrorists and groups that purport to represent American Muslims, like the extremist Council on American Islamic-Relations (CAIR), which have ties to terror groups or have rationalized extremism. But most American Muslims are hard working and law-abiding.
But despite the claim of rampant Islamophobia, it is the relative absence of hatred and discrimination against Muslims that has best characterized American life in the last decade. While any number of hate crimes directed at Muslims is regrettable and all deserve to be punished, there is no basis in fact for the notion Islam is under siege here. If anything, the latest FBI statistics point out that lingering anti-Semitism — bolstered, it must be admitted, by a rising tide of Jew-hatred emanating from the Muslim world — remains a more potent threat.