The Rise in Anti-Muslim Hate Crime (and a Startling Omission)

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Over the Goldblog transom came an e-mail from CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, about anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. The e-mail contained a link to an alarming Huffington Post story by Mark Potok headlined "FBI Reports Dramatic Spike in Anti-Muslim Hate Violence." Potok is the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project. Here is some of what the story reported:

Anti-Muslim hate crimes soared by an astounding 50% last year, skyrocketing over 2009 levels in a year marked by the vicious rhetoric of Islam-bashing politicians and activists, especially over the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" in New York City.

Although the national statistics compiled by the FBI each year are known to dramatically understate the real level of reported and unreported hate crimes, they do offer telling indications of some trends. The latest statistics, showing a jump from 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 to 160 in 2010, seem to reflect a clear rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric from groups like Stop Islamization of America. Much of that rhetoric was aimed at stopping an Islamic center in lower Manhattan.

There is no doubt that anti-Muslim prejudice is a serious problem in America, and not only among the Republican candidates for president. But when you dive into the FBI statistics on hate crimes, you discover something very interesting, something CAIR didn't mention, and something Potok didn't report: According to the FBI, only 13.2 percent of religiously-motivated hate attacks in America were directed against Muslims. Jews, however, were on the receiving end of 65.4 percent of all religion-based attacks: the FBI reports 887 hate crimes against Jews, as opposed to 160 against Muslims.

It has been thus for quite a while. In 2009, anti-Jewish hate crimes accounted for 70 percent of all religiously-motivated attacks; in 2008 it was 66 percent. It is remarkable that Mr. Potok neglects to mention the fact that Jews make up the overwhelming majority of Americans who are targeted because of their religion. What a strange and telling omission!

A few observations:

    1) I don't particularly like the hate crime metric we often use to judge how tolerant our society is; in isolation, these numbers don't tell us that much about our country. In any case, all crimes are in some manner or form hate crimes.
    2) I'm not bringing this subject up because I believe different ethnic and racial minority groups should vie for the title of most-persecuted sub-group. I only bring it up because I don't like the sort of politically-correct thinking that leads to the omission of inconvenient information.
    3) Prejudice against Jews on the street level is much more intense, obviously, than prejudice against Muslims, but I think it's also fair to say that politicians and commentators (and leaders of other religious groups, for that matter) get away with saying things about Islam and about Muslims that they wouldn't get away with if they were talking about Jews. Anti-Muslim prejudice doesn't evince itself simply in beatings and vandalism.
    4) The U.S. is a great country for Jews. It's also a great country for Muslims. Despite these numbers.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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