On Tuesday, July 15th, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a news conference at their DC headquarters to mark the release of the group's 8th annual Civil Rights Report, titled Guilt by Association. CAIR has created a niche for itself in the American-Muslim community by documenting what it perceives are anti-Muslim incidents. The title of the report is especially appropriate in light of two recent arrests of US terror suspects-Randall Todd "Ismail" Royer and Bassem K. Khafagi-both of whom are former CAIR officials.
The report claims a 15 percent increase in complaints of anti-Muslim discrimination, up to a total of 602 reported incidents. This is not an overwhelming number when one considers that in a previous CAIR report titled The American Mosque, they estimated that there are 7 million Muslims in the US. The significance: last year, approximately 0.0086 percent of Muslims in America reported facing hardship related to their ethnic identity. The percentage becomes even smaller when one includes Arab-Americans in this calculation.
CAIR's Civil Rights Report, "documents the major high-impact development [of discrimination] occurring last year, especially in connection with the U.S. government's continuing reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11th." The purpose of the report, it would seem, is to establish a link between the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies and the rise in hate-crimes against Muslims. CAIR's evidence, however, is unconvincing.
Guilt By Association begins with a list of Bush administration policies that CAIR claims, "have singled out Muslim individuals or organizations." Anyone familiar with CAIR will not be shocked to discover that the latest "abuse of power" canard is but a distortion of the facts. The governmental policies and initiatives that CAIR cites-USA Patriot Act, Operation Greenquest, INS Registrations-are aimed not at singling out Muslims, but rather terrorists. While the government has certainly taken actions against individuals and groups associated with Muslim organizations in its pursuit of terrorists, CAIR offers no proof that the policies themselves are discriminatory.
For example, CAIR defends the Boston based software company Ptech, whose offices were raided by federal authorities in December, 2002. CAIR dismisses the charges and files the incident in a category titled, "raids on Muslim homes and businesses." Their assertion that this probe was motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment ignores the fact that several of Ptech's officials and shareholders were under simultaneous investigation for links to international terrorist entities. Meanwhile the company's client list included the US Air Force, NATO, FBI, and the IRS (no reason for investigation?). By relating only half of the story, CAIR mischaracterizes government's action as discriminatory, and obscures the fact that terrorist elements are operating within our society.
The annual report then moves on to incidents of "Muslim agitation." In what might be the best example of CAIR's devious standards of discrimination, the report says, "In January, Senator Gordon R. Smith made a public statement that Oregon had been a hub of terrorist fund-raising activities. Smith, citing unclassified information he learned in confidential security briefings, said terrorism-related fund-raising has occurred in Corvallis and at Portland State University." Nowhere does Smith even mention the word "Muslim" in association with the terrorist fundraising. Either CAIR knows something that the rest of us do not, or the nexus between terrorism and the Islamic world is more intimate than it is portrayed to be.
To be fair, the report does contain the details of several heinous crimes against Muslims and cases of inappropriate action by law enforcement officials. Fortunately, in most of these instances, the perpetrators have been arrested and punished, or have apologized to those inconvenienced, as the report documents. Additionally, it must be noted that these acts are carried out by small groups or individuals and carry no evidence whatsoever of being the product of government policy.
"Anti-Muslim violence" is another category that groups together cases of perceived verbal or material disrespect towards Muslims. While these instances can be just as repulsive to the average reader as physical attacks, the supposed causal link with the administration's policies is nowhere to be found.
This is because the rise in the number of reported discrimination cases is a product of CAIR's own machinations. On the same day the report was released, the Attorney General of California released the state's 8th annual report on hate crimes, revealing that crimes against Muslims in California had decreased by 54 percent since last year. Meanwhile the CAIR report lists California as the leading state in hate-crime cases, and Executive Director of the group's Northern California Chapter called the Attorney General's report, "definitely not an entire picture." The discrepancy in the statistical reports is a product of methodology. While the state of California counts official complaints to police departments, CAIR includes unofficial complaints made by phone or email. CAIR's all-inclusive definition of discrimination encourages individuals to report "crimes" that they would not otherwise report to officials because they are not actionable. To support that notion, the report states, "more than 80 percent of the complaints originated in the fourteen States where CAIR offices and chapters are located." CAIR officials are so adamant in defending the increase that we can surely expect similar results next year.
But what interest does CAIR have in portraying an increase in anti-Muslim discrimination cases? That answer is simple: by convincing American citizens that government policy has resulted in an undeserved backlash against ordinary Muslims, they will muster opposition to the anti-terror laws that they so fervently denounce. Any reader with an ounce of skepticism and faith in the Bush administration's intentions will see that the CAIR report offers no evidence that the administration's policies have been designed to target individuals of Muslim origin explicitly. There is a gaping disconnect between the institutional discrimination that CAIR summarizes in its report, and the cases of individual hardship that it cites as evidence.
Just as the few regrettable incidents of violence are not related to any government policy, but rather the actions of individuals, the punishment for improper behavior cannot be addressed by any broad change in anti-terrorism policy. If we let political ethno-sensitivity override our basic understanding of right and wrong, we risk bearing witness to crimes much more devastating than anything described in the CAIR Civil Rights report.