Anti-Muslim discrimination in the U.S. reached a record high in 2005, according to a new report from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
These numbers emerge as Muslims from Basra to Jakarta continue to be outraged by and retaliate against Pope Benedict's comments last week suggesting that Islam condones violence.
As the U.S.'s largest Muslim advocacy organization, CAIR has compiled Muslim-Americans' complaints of harassment, in its various manifestations from hate mail to employment discrimination to physical violence, since 1995.
Now, in its 11th annual report, CAIR says it processed a total of 1,972 civil rights complaints last year, an almost 30% increase over the figures for 2004.
The volume of complaints, as one might imagine, spiked dramatically following the 9/11 attacks.
Arsalan Iftikhar, Legal Director of CAIR and the author of "The Struggle for Equality" report, said in an interview that before 9/11, there had been 300-400 discrimination complaints per year. In the nine months alone after 9/11, there were over 1,700 complaints.
But why is 2005 the year when the greatest number of Muslim-Americans reported the discrimination incidents they did?
For one thing, Iftikhar said, now that we're several years removed from the 9/11 catastrophe, "many Muslims feel empowered to speak out" about bias that they experience. Consequently, they reach out to any of CAIR's 30 chapters across the U.S., which record the reports that are then tallied for the year-end report.
Another element in 2005 was the frequency and severity of "international watershed events," Iftikhar said, that have influenced anti-Muslim sentiment. The London terrorist attacks, the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy, the Newsweek report on the Koran desecration, as well as the continued war in Iraq, have kept "Muslims and Islam in the limelight," he noted. Whenever there have been such events in the past several years, Iftikhar explained, CAIR has observed an up-tick in reports of harassment against Muslims.
Last but not least, is the impact of the media.
"We believe the biggest factor contributing to anti-Muslim feeling and the resulting acts of bias is the growth in Islamophobic rhetoric that has flooded the Internet and talk radio," Iftikhar said.
The proliferation of blogs, by which anyone (with a computer), anywhere can say just about anything, has especially proven problematic for the Muslim-American community, Iftikhar explained.
The entire CAIR report can be viewed by clicking here.