A Project of the Council on American-Islamic Relations


2003 Civil Rights Report: Guilt by Association

Executive Summary

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.