A Project of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

2024 Civil Rights Report: Fatal: The Resurgence of Anti-Muslim Hate

Executive Summary

CAIR received 8,061 complaints nationwide in 2023, marking the highest number of complaints CAIR has ever recorded in its 30-year history. Nearly half of all complaints received in 2023 were reported in the final three months of the year. The 2023 wave of anti-Muslim incidents, a 56 percent jump over the previous year, surpassed the period following the implementation of President Trump’s Muslim Ban, which saw a 32 percent jump over the previous year.  

The primary force behind this wave of heightened Islamophobia was the escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine in October 2023. Employers, universities, and schools were among the central actors suppressing free speech by those who sought to vocally oppose Israel’s genocidal onslaught on Gaza and call attention to Palestinian human rights. 

The number of complaints in 2023 is a 56% increase over 2022. At 1,673 complaints, immigration and asylum cases comprised 20% of total complaints received in 2023. Employment discrimination (1,201 complaints, or 15%), education discrimination (688 complaints, or 8.5%), and hate crimes and incidents (607 complaints, or 7.5%) are among the highest reported categories. 

Behind these numbers are human tragedies. In October, six-year-old Palestinian-American boy Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed and murdered by his family’s landlord in Chicago. According to his mother, who was also attacked, the landlord yelled “you Muslims must die!” before attempting to choke and stab her. 

In another incident of a child being targeted, a teacher threatened to beat and behead a seventh-grade Muslim student in Warner Robins, Georgia, in December. After the student asked about the teacher’s Israeli flag, the teacher was overheard, in part, threatening to “slit [the student’s] god***n throat” and “cut her head off” by several students and witnesses. Meanwhile, a Muslim and Palestinian woman was reportedly threatened by a man while riding the D.C. Metro in October. The woman had been riding the Metro on her way to a demonstration for Palestinian rights when a man reportedly asked her, “How’d you like to lose your life?” On video, the man is then heard asking the woman, “How’d you like to have your head beheaded?” According to the victim and witnesses, the man also reportedly possessed a firearm, which he slightly removed from his pocket. 

While this wave of Islamophobic bias dominates this report, the status of Muslim civil rights proved precarious in other ways in 2023. 

CAIR was given access to copies of the No-Fly List and Selectee List, subsets of what is colloquially known as the “terror watchlist.” An expert statistical analysis estimates that at least 98.3% of the names on the watchlist are identifiably Muslim. More than 350,000 entries alone in the portion of the watchlist acquired by CAIR include some transliteration of Mohamed or Ali or Mahmoud, and the top 50 most frequently occurring names are all Muslim names. 

A Muslim-American Air Force veteran, Saadiq Long, knows the consequences of being watchlisted well. Long had been pulled over by Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD) officers numerous times, most notably a stop on January 12, 2023, which resulted in Long being handcuffed and arrested at gunpoint while his vehicle was searched. In May, Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah of Prospect Park, N.J. was barred from attending the White House’s annual Eid al-Fitr celebration likely due to his prior watchlisting. 

Over several months, CAIR, Muslim families, and other community partners called for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland to restore the school district’s opt-out option for certain types of instructional material. In the fall of 2022, MCPS implemented opt-outs when it introduced curriculum and classroom discussions into English classes that some parents consider age-inappropriate, violative of their religious beliefs, objectionable, or otherwise inappropriate. In November 2022, MCPS initially insisted that the “readings are not mandatory and that they will not be scheduled for use until families are notified.”  As we detail later in this report, opt-outs are common in public schools. 

In teacher discussion guides, MCPS makes it clear that English teachers are expected to teach concepts related to gender, family life, and relationships, contrary to claims MCPS had made in federal court. Teachers are told to scold, debate, or “disrupt the either/or thinking” of only students who express traditional viewpoints or ask critical questions about those topics.   

Positive outcomes were achieved. The recognition of Muslim religious identity by allowing mosques to broadcast the call to prayer, celebrating Muslim Heritage Month, and observing Eid as school holidays granted American Muslim communities equal social opportunities to practice their faith. In 2023, Minneapolis and New York City permitted mosques to broadcast the adhan, or call to prayer, over loudspeakers. Also in 2023, New Jersey and Georgia adopted the practice of recognizing a Muslim Heritage Month. North Carolina joined the list of states observing Muslim American Heritage Month in early 2024, bringing the total to at least seven states. School districts in at least six states added the observation of one of two major Muslim holidays to their yearly calendars. 

While the treatment of incarcerated and detained Muslims continues to be an area of concern, progress has also been made to preserve their freedom to practice their faith. The California chapter of CAIR, alongside The Church State Council, Exodus Project, Jakara Movement, and Tayba Foundation, sponsored SB 309, a bill that would create a statewide policy ensuring the right of religious headwear, clothing, and grooming to those in California’s carceral system. The bill was signed by Governor Newsom in October 2023. 

Based on these and other developments, CAIR makes several recommendations in this report. Public officials at all levels of government, corporate leaders, and those speaking on behalf of places of education must respect free speech on Palestine and the value of human life. If they choose to comment on international affairs such as events in Israel and Palestine, then equal weight and attention should be given to Palestinian suffering. The Biden administration must suspend the FBI’s dissemination of the watchlist. Congress must enhance anti-doxxing laws. We also reiterate some previous recommendations including our insistence that the U.S. government tie police funding to the submission of hate crimes data and that banks must end the wrongful targeting of American Muslim, Arab, and Persian families. 

Gaza: The Resurgence of Islamophobia in 2023

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Defining Islamophobia

CAIR is reissuing our definition of Islamophobia here as we continue to urge employers, schools, media, government entities, and others to identify and address Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism wherever it may appear.

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