Since CAIR’s founding in 1994, CAIR staff has worked tirelessly to advance the civil rights of all Americans, regardless of faith. Starting with just a small office and a telephone, CAIR has developed into the preeminent organization that Muslims contact when they require legal advice and assistance. CAIR has grown into a preeminent civil rights advocacy organization that has been recognized for its work both in the United States and internationally.
Even now, civil rights advocacy remains at the center of CAIR's work. CAIR has served more than 25,000 victims of discrimination since its founding. Our nation-wide offices receive a total of approximately 3,000 inquiries a years and work to resolve them through mediation, negotiation, public pressure or, if necessary, through legal action. Our services are often provided free of charge to the community.
In 2011, CAIR updated our "Know Your Rights and Responsibilities" pocket guide. This wallet-sized pamphlet provides details of your rights as an employee, student or airline passenger, and teaches the reader how to react to an anti-Muslim hate crime and what to do if you are contacted by law enforcement. CAIR provides these guides free of charge and has distributed more than 1 million copies since it was first written.
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The majority of complaints received by CAIR's offices in 1999 consist of incidents of religious accommodation denial. Complaints about the lack of accommodation to Muslim prayer in schools and the workplace accounted for the largest portion of cases. Hijab related complaints came in second place, a marked change from previous years, which implies an increased tolerance toward Muslim women's attire by the American public.
Still, a survey of Muslim parents and students in the public school systems shows that the majority shy away from requesting religious accommodation. Accommodation policies in most school districts surveyed in this report do not adequately address most of the religious requirements of Muslim students, suggesting that the problem of accommodating Muslim students is more structural than incidental in nature.
At the workplace, there has been a modest change, with some corporations adjusting their policies to accommodate the religious practices of their employees. Still, incidents of discrimination recur even at places where education and moral persuasion in the past have led to successful resolution of discrimination complaints.
In public schools, there has been little progress in the form of policy initiatives by some school districts in favor of religious accommodation. Yet most school districts surveyed in this report do not address most Muslim concerns. Local Muslim communities ought to be more active in providing input to school boards, so that school district policies regarding religious accommodation address the needs of Muslim students. Also, Congress and the Department of Education may take appropriate initiatives to address the needs of minority students, similar to what government did when the Equal Access Act was passed and implemented dealing with concerns raised by religious conservative Christians.
Data gathered for this report demonstrate that Muslims in the United States are more apprehensive than ever about discrimination and intolerance. U.S. government actions after September 11, 2001, alone impacted more than 60,000 individuals. Muslims have charged that the government's actions violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution because they included ethnically and religiously-based interrogations, detentions, raids, and closures of charities.
In addition, the daily experiences of Muslims in schools, workplaces, public areas, and airports have often included incidents in which they were singled out, denied religious accommodation and otherwise discriminated against by reason of actual or perceived religion and ethnicity. In the past year CAIR received 1,516 complaints from community members, which represents a three-fold increase over the previous year. Individual claims reported directly to CAIR affected the lives of more than 2,250 people; most were subjected to incidents of bias-motivated harassment and violence. Unlike any other past crisis, the post-September 11 anti-Muslim backlash has been the most violent, as it included several murders.
Excluding the September 11 backlash incidents, this year's normal reporting period contains 525 valid complaints, up from 366 in 2000/2001--a 43 percent increase. These incidents included the termination or denial of employment because of religious appearance; the refusal to accommodate religious practices in the workplace, schools, and prisons; the singling out of individuals at airports because of their distinct names, appearances, and travel destination; the detention or interrogation of Muslims by federal and local authorities based on profiling criteria; and the denial of services or access to public accommodation facilities because of religious or ethnic identity. All of these experiences have common elements of setting religious and ethnic features of Muslim life or Muslim religious and political views apart from what is considered normal and acceptable. The fallout from the September 11 attacks continues to impact Muslim daily life in several ways, especially at airports and ports of entry. FBI agents and other local law enforcement authorities have sometimes responded to hearsay reports, and conducted raids and interrogations of legal immigrants and citizens. While the government has defended such actions as necessary for national security, none of these actions led to the arrest of terror suspects. Instead they disrupted the ability of thousands of Muslims to practice their religion freely, negatively impacted the careers and hopes of many individuals, and threatened democratic freedoms and the rule of law.
Two particularly encouraging developments are noteworthy. First, on April 3, 2002, a federal judge in Detroit, Michigan ruled that the Bush administration's policy of closed immigration hearings was unconstitutional. The ruling came in the case of Rabih Haddad, who had overstayed his immigration visa. In another case involving a hate crime, a Dallas, Texas jury convicted Mark Stroman for the murder of Vasudev Patel last October. Storman thought the Hindu man looked Middle Eastern and killed him to avenge the attacks on New York and Washington.
In 2002, Muslim community members in the United States reported 602 complaints of discrimination to CAIR. This represents a 15 percent increase over the previous year. More than any other year, the daily experiences of Muslims in schools, workplaces, public areas, airports, and in encounters with the courts, police and other government agencies included incidents in which they were profiled and singled out because of actual or perceived religious and ethnic identity. Anti-Muslim sentiment related to September the 11th has been cited in many reports. Never before had an international terrorist act had such a long-lasting impact on Muslim life in the United States.
When compared to the year preceding September 11th, this year's reports show a 64 percent increase. The fallout from September 11 continues to impact Muslim daily life, whether at schools, in the workplace or in general public encounters. Mistreatment at the hand of federal government personnel continue to be reported in substantial numbers. FBI agents and other local law enforcement authorities have sometimes responded to hearsay reports, and conducted questionable raids and interrogations.
In 2002, the Department of Justice has continued to take actions in the name of combating terrorism, when in fact they have targeted broadly Arabs and Muslims in this country. The investigation dragnet in 2002 included the special registration requirements that singled out students and visitors to America from Muslim-majority countries. Also, many Muslim homes and businesses were raided and private property seized pending investigation. Moreover, queries by some FBI agents about mosque membership lists and media reports about a proposed FBI counting of mosques raised widespread apprehension among community members who believed they were being scrutinized based on their religious association. Other profiling-based interrogations and searches continued throughout the year, though reported with less frequency than the few months immediately after September 11th. Critics of the government have charged that such actions violated the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Singling out Muslims is increasing in all sectors of life. A significant number of cases took place at private businesses, places of residence, the Internet, and courts. Contributing to the rise of discrimination against Muslims is the continuing anti-Muslim rhetoric, especially by some evangelical leaders and neoconservatives. A segment of this report documents examples of their divisive language. The vilification of Islam and Muslims by such elements continues unabated.
Data gathered for this report demonstrates that Muslims in the United States are increasingly challenged by discrimination and intolerance. The daily experiences of Muslims in schools, workplaces, public areas, airports, and government agencies often include incidents in which Muslims are singled out, denied religious accommodation and otherwise discriminated against by reason of actual or perceived religion and ethnicity. This year's report contains 284 such cases, up from 240 in 1997--an 18 percent increase. All of these experiences have common elements of setting symbols, rituals and other unique features of Muslim life apart of what is considered normal, acceptable and tolerable in the dominant culture.
Incidents of harassment and violence account for 36 cases, compared to 85 incidents in 1997. The decrease in the number of incidents can be attributed to the absence of events such as the crash of TWA Flight 800 or the Oklahoma City bombing. These tragic events were unfairly blamed on Muslims, and led to a surge of incidents of harassment and violence against Muslims in the United States.
This report documents 248 incidents of discrimination--a 60 percent increase over the previous year. These incidents include the termination or denial of employment because of religious appearance; the refusal to accommodate religious practices in the workplace, schools and prisons; the singling out of individuals at airports because of their distinct names, appearances and travel destination; and the denial of service or access to public accommodation facilities because of religious or ethnic identity.
Many cases described in this report indicate that ignorance of Islam and its religious practices continues to be a major factor contributing to the mistreatment of Muslims. Another major factor is outdated corporate policies that do not take into account the needs of the rising Muslim population in the workforce. Some corporations have recognized this fact and implemented new policies to insure the free exercise of religion in the workplace. One example is a decision by Stream International in Dallas, Texas, to assign a room for employees to pray. Another example is an initiative by American Industry in Nashville, Tennessee, to institute a "floating break" as a mechanism allowing workers to attend Friday prayer at a mosque.
Private sector companies may decide to adopt an initiative similar to President Clinton's 1997 guidelines on the accommodation of religious practice in the federal workplace. In this initiative the president specifically recognized the right of a woman to wear hijab (loose-fitting clothing with a head covering that Muslim women wear in public) and advised government offices to accommodate this and other religious practices of Muslims and people of other faiths.
Not all government initiatives have promoted tolerance in the past year. American Muslims are apprehensive about community members held under so-called secret evidence procedures. Also, the Computerized Automated Passenger Screening (CAPS--known as passenger profiling), initiated by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, may prove to be an institutionalized form of discrimination. Exchanges between travelers and airline representatives and narrations of passengers' experiences illustrate that ethnic and religious stereotyping can be a problem in the profiling procedure.
Another major source of discrimination is the bias against religion in general and Islam in particular. Muslims have been portrayed as the "other," often leading to biased behavior by persons in positions of authority as well as by members of the public. CAIR recently published educational booklets, An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices and An Educator's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices, which helped in the resolution and/or prevention of several discrimination cases--a indication that changes in public perception are attainable through the constructive exchange of ideas.