A Special Report on Anti-Muslim Stereotyping, Harassment and Hate Crimes Following the Bombing of Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building, April 19, 1995
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Within hours of the April 19, terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, media reports and self-proclaimed “terrorism experts” linked Muslims, Arabs and “Middle Eastern-looking men” to the blast. This unsubstantiated linkage prompted stereotyping, harassment and actual attacks on Muslims and Arab-Americans around America.
These incidents mainly took the form of: 1) numerous threatening phone calls, including bomb threats, to mosques and Islamic centers; 2) verbal abuse directed at Muslims who appeared in public; 3) harassing behavior by co-workers; 4) direct physical attacks such as rock-throwing, beatings and shootings. In addition, two mosques were set on fire; one of these incidents has been officially ruled arson by fire investigators.
From these reported incidents CAIR has identified two alarming trends:
(1) A growing anti-Muslim prejudice has caused Muslims to experience an increased sense of alienation; and (2) numerous incidents of anti-Muslim violence that target highly visible Muslim institutions and easily recognizable Muslims, especially mosques and women who wear the traditional Islamic
hijab (dress covering the head and the body, with the exception of the face and hands).
To reduce the anti-Muslim sentiment documented in this report, CAIR makes the following recommendations: (1) That Congress and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hold hearings to investigate the extent and severity of the anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, the causes of such prejudice, and its implication for civil rights legislation. In particular CAIR urges Congress to add “persons targeted for their religious and/or ethnic attire” to the categories of persons and federally protected activities covered by the Civil Rights Statute. (2) That the media exercise restraint when reporting developments of emotionally-charged events. Much of the stereotyping and defamation of innocent Muslim citizens and residents could have been avoided if reporters had applied basic standards of journalism. (3) That police departments and Muslim communities establish better channels of communication so Muslims and Arabs feel comfortable coming forward to report their experiences of bias and hate crimes.