CAIR 2024 Annual Report

(Image Credit: CAIR 2024 Annual Report)

2024 Civil Rights Report: 8,000+ Anti-Muslim Bias Complaints

Published on 29 Apr 2024

In April 2024, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest American Muslim civil rights organization, published their annual civil rights report highlighting anti-Muslim bias complaints reported to them over the calendar year. Their 2024 annual civil rights report showed that CAIR received 8,061 total complaints nationwide during the 2023 calendar year, which marks the highest number of complaints that the civil rights group has ever recorded in their entire 30-year history.

The report, “FATAL: The Resurgence of Anti-Muslim Hate,” outlines different categories of civil rights complaints including (but not limited to): airline discrimination, banking discrimination, school bullying, denial of service, education discrimination, employment discrimination, FBI interrogations, and more. According to CAIR, the 8,061 complaints of anti-Muslim incidents from 2023 was a 56 percent increase over the previous year’s report and which had surpassed the period immediately following the implementation of Donald Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban, which also had seen a 32 percent jump over the previous year.

The complaint breakdown by category in the annual report was as follows:  immigration and asylum cases (1,673 cases comprising 20% of total complaints reported in 2023), employment discrimination (1,201 complaints, or 15% of total complaints), education discrimination (688 complaints, or 8.5% of total complaints ), and hate crimes/incidents (607 complaints, or 7.5% of total complaints).

The report defines Islamophobia as “a fear, hatred, or prejudice toward Islam and Muslims that results in a pattern of discrimination and oppression.” It also noted that Islamophobia must also be generally understood to be a system of both religious and racial animosity that is perpetuated by private citizens, as well as cultural and political structures across the United States today.

The report highlighted a number of high-profile cases where Muslims were targeted simply because of their religious and/or ethnic identity. In October 2023, a6-year old boy named Wadea Al-Fayoume from suburban Chicago, Illinois was brutally murdered by his family’s 71-year-old white male landlord who stabbed the young boy over 25 times while allegedly shouting “You Muslims must die!” The boy’s Palestinian mother was also critically injured during the bias-motivated attack.

A month later in November 2023, three Palestinian college students named Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ali Ahmad were shot in Burlington, Vermont during Thanksgiving Break. Two out of the three college students were wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh (black-and-white scarf) during their walk home when they were all shot by a 48-year-old white male who lived in the neighborhood. As a result of the shooting, one of the students was paralyzed and is now in a wheelchair.

The report also stated that the civil rights organization had received 3,578 complaints in the final three months of 2023 alone- representing nearly 45% of the year’s total incidents- following Israel’s war in  Gaza and subsequent rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Palestinian racism. In terms of location, California led the way with over 2,270 total civil rights complaints followed by Ohio (789), New York (555), Illinois (512), and Michigan (495).

There were also several high-profile cases of anti-mosque attacks in 2023. In April 2023, two mosques in Minneapolis, Minnesota were targeted by arson attacks in the span of two days by the same person. The arsonist reportedly started a fire on the evening of April 23 at the Masjid Omar Islamic Center and that same individual was later seen the following day on surveillance footage going into Masjid Al Rahma (aka “Mercy Mosque”) after which another fire damaged the third floor of the mosque. The fire caused many people- including approximately 40 children- to rush to safety outside the mosque building.

Bullying in schools targeting Muslim students has also been on the rise in recent years as well. In December 2023, a social studies teacher in Warner Robbins, Georgia named Benjamin Reese was arrested for threatening to behead a Muslim student and he was eventually charged with making terroristic threats and cruelty to children in the third degree. Approximately 20 students and witnesses said that they overheard the teacher telling a Muslim female student that “he would kick her f-cking ass, slit her godd-mn throat and drag her ass outside and cut her head off.”

Employment discrimination against Muslim workers has also been an issue over the last few decades across the country. In late 2023, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a young Muslim woman against the fast food chain Chipotle because she was constantly harassed and retaliated against because of her hijab (headscarf) that she wore to work. According to the EEOC lawsuit, a Chipotle assistant manager in Lenexa, Kansas repeatedly asked the 19-year-old female Muslim employee to remove her hijab so he could see her hair, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. Over the course of a month, the manager asked the Muslim employee to let him see her hair “approximately 10 to 15 times” and the employee’s repeated complaints about her manager’s actions were ignored, eventually leading her to quit her job.

Airline discrimination still affects Muslims, Arabs and South Asians to this very day as well. In August 2023, CAIR welcomed a Fifth Circuit court ruling involving a federal lawsuit filed by two Muslim men from Dallas who were prevented from flying on a Mesa Airlines airplane based on the pilots’ biased concerns about their backgrounds. According to the federal lawsuit, the Mesa Airlines pilot reportedly brought up what she assumed to be the passengers’ “Arabic, Mediterranean” identity and defiantly said that she refused to fly with them on board; proudly telling security guards that she was “not flying this plane with a brother named Issam on it.” In January 2024, CAIR announced a settlement with Mesa Airlines, including a financial payment to the affected parties.

The 2024 civil rights report concluded by offering some policy recommendations to help protect the civil rights of millions of Muslims across the United States moving forward. In addition to more forceful prosecution of bias-motivated hate crimes, the 2024 CAIR civil rights report calls upon state and local government officials to continue the trend of accommodating Muslim religious practices in all public spheres of American daily life at the same level as other religious faith groups. They further recommend that this goal can be achieved by recognizing Muslim American Heritage Months, adopting Eid as a school holiday in areas with sizable numbers of Muslim students, permitting mosques to broadcast the call to prayer, and follow the lead of states like Illinois, Ohio, and Maryland who have already enshrined religious sports attire inclusion in law. Although this annual civil rights report offers a mere snapshot into the lives of millions of American Muslims, it offers people a glimpse into some of the major areas where Islamophobia is rearing its ugly head across the United States.