CAIR Report Documents Alarming Rise in Anti-Muslim Hate

2023 saw the highest number of anti-Muslim bias complaints ever recorded in the three-decade history of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), according to a recently released report by the Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.

Muslim woman
Photo by Pekic/E+ via Getty Images

The report, titled “Fatal: The Resurgence of Anti-Muslim Hate,” explains that there were 8,061 complaints traced to anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States in 2023, a 56 percent spike over the previous year. Of those, nearly half the incidents occurred from October through December.

“I was stunned by the sheer volume of complaints we got,” says Corey Saylor, CAIR’s director of research and advocacy. “In 2022, our numbers showed the first ever drop since we started tracking incidents,” he says. “And then to see all of that erased, it’s real insight into how easy it is for someone to just flip the Islamophobia switch back to on.”

“What we are witnessing since October 2023 is nothing short of the largest wave of anti-Muslim hate seen in this country in more than a decade.”

Immigration and asylum cases comprised the lion’s share of complaints, at 1,673, or 20 percent. Next came employment discrimination, at 15 percent; education discrimination, at 8.5 percent; and hate crimes, at 7.5 percent.

“Behind these numbers are human tragedies,” the report states. Among the examples cited is the stabbing death of six-year-old Palestinian-American child Wadea Al-Fayoume by the family’s landlord in Chicago. The mother, who was also attacked, said the landlord yelled, “You Muslims must die!” as he tried to stab her, too.

In Warner Robins, Georgia, a teacher threatened to beat and behead a seventh-grade Muslim girl.

“I just don’t know how much hate it takes to drive an adult to target a child,” says Saylor. “And I think it’s also fair to say that hate did not originate last October.”

The report also notes that a regional airline inadvertently posted part of the U.S. government’s No Fly List online. Upon analyzing the list, colloquially known as the “terror watchlist,” 98.3 percent “are identifiably Muslim,” per the report. “More than 350,000 entries alone in the portion of the watchlist acquired by CAIR include some transliteration of Mohamed or Ali or Mahmoud, and the top 50 most frequently occurring names are all Muslim names.”

Among those names is the mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, Mohamed T. Khairullah. Although he was invited to last year’s White House’s annual Eid al-Fitr celebration, he was prevented from attending because of his watchlisting.

“The new data confirms our worst suspicions: what we are witnessing since October 2023 is nothing short of the largest wave of anti-Muslim hate seen in this country in more than a decade,” Farah Afify, the report’s co-author and CAIR research and advocacy coordinator, said.

The report also highlighted some forward steps made in the past year regarding the recognition of Muslim religious identity. School districts in at least six states added Muslim holidays to their yearly calendars. In New York City and Minneapolis, mosques may now broadcast the call to prayer over loudspeakers. Also this past year, New Jersey and Georgia began to recognize a Muslim Heritage Month. North Carolina joined those states earlier this year, making at least eight states that now observe that month.

Based on its findings, the report concludes with recommendations to Congress and the administration. These include suspending the dissemination of the FBI watchlist, expanding anti-doxxing laws, respecting free speech in the workplace and educational institutions, and making police funding contingent on the accurate reporting of hate crime data.

“These findings demonstrate that, even amid moments of perceived progress, Islamophobia persists as an underlying force that is always capable of reemerging,” the report’s authors wrote.