2018 Civil Rights Report: Bias Incident Data

On a Friday afternoon last spring, two young women were riding a train in Portland, Oregon, when a man began to rant and scream anti-Muslim slurs at them. Horrified by this behavior, three passengers stepped forward to verbally intervene. In response, the aggressor pulled out a knife and stabbed two of them to death. Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Rick Best gave their lives in the fight against hatred and prejudice.


CAIR recorded a 17 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents nationwide in 2017 over 2016. This was accompanied by a 15 percent increase in hate crimes targeting American Muslims over the same period.

This data demonstrates that not only has the number of incidents targeting American Muslims, including children, youth, and families, risen, but that the incidents are also increasingly violent in nature.

In total, CAIR received 5,650 reports of potential bias incidents cases in 2017. Staff determined that 2,599 (46%) of these reports contained an identifiable element of religious, ethnic, or national origin bias.

All cases are classified by three criteria in CAIR’s database: type of abuse, location, and triggering factor.




Type of Abuse

Harassment, defined as a non-violent or non-threatening incident, accounted for 14 percent of the total number of anti-Muslim bias incidents, making it the number-one type of abuse.

Incidents in which the complainant was inappropriately targeted and harassed by Customs and Border Protection was the second most frequent type of abuse and constituted 13 percent of cases. This is the first time that CBP has ranked within the top five and it is possible to attribute this to the unconstitutional Muslim Ban executive order.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes, including those targeting children and families, made up 12 percent of cases. The category includes a violent attack against a person, damage, destruction, or vandalism targeting property, or any incident classified as a hate crime by relevant state or federal laws.

The fourth most frequent type of abuse involved incidents in which the FBI harassed or otherwise inappropriately targeted the individual. This constituted 10 percent of the total.

Employment discrimination — including denial of work, being passed over for promotion, or harassment by a supervisor or other senior staff — was the fourth-largest category, accounting for 9 percent of the total. Cases involving discrimination at the workplace continue to remain in the top five types of abuse since 2014.


Due in large part to the unconstitutional Muslim Ban executive order, the most common location for an incident of anti-Muslim bias in 2017 was an air, bus, or train terminal, accounting for 20 percent of the total.

The second most frequent location was a complainant’s residence or home at 13 percent. Commercial buildings accounted for 9 percent. At 7 and 6 percent respectively, elementary and secondary schools and highways, roads, alleys, streets, or sidewalks constituted the fourth and fifth most common locations for an incident of anti-Muslim bias.

Trigger Factor

In line with the previous three years, the most prevalent trigger of an anti-Muslim bias incident in 2017 was the victim’s ethnicity or national origin. It accounted for 32 percent of the total.

The second most frequent trigger was the perpetrator’s perception of an individual as a Muslim – irrespective of the presence or not of an identifying marker such as attire. This constituted 14 percent.

The trigger in 13 percent of incidents was a headscarf on a woman. The unconstitutional Muslim Ban executive order made up the fourth most frequent trigger at 10 percent. Other everyday Muslim community and family activities — events such as rallies, picnics, or a day at the state capitol visiting legislators organized primarily for American Muslim families and children — constituted an additional 7 percent.

Government Agency-Instigated Incidents

Federal government agencies instigated 35 percent of all anti-Muslim bias incidents recorded in 2017. Of the 919 incidents, CBP accounted for 38 percent, FBI accounted for 29 percent, TSA accounted for 8 percent, USCIS accounted for 5 percent, and ICE accounted for 4 percent. In 12 percent of cases, multiple federal government agencies were involved, and other government agencies made up 4 percent.

The Unconstitutional Muslim Ban

CAIR received a deluge of cases relating to the unconstitutional executive order barring the entry of families, children, and individuals from several Muslim-majority countries into the U.S., the first version of which was signed on January 27, 2017. In sum, it recorded 464 incidents pertaining to the Ban. This represents 18 percent of the total number of anti-Muslim bias incidents documented in 2017.

The cases were classified in various ways depending on whether it was CBP, TSA, or other government agencies targeting the individuals. To calculate the total number of cases relating to the unconstitutional Muslim Ban, a simple methodology was employed which compiled cases based on the intersection of type, trigger, and location.

Anti-Mosque Incidents

CAIR recorded 144 anti-mosque incidents in 2017. Of these, hate crimes at a mosque accounted for 57 incidents, intimidation accounted for 42 incidents, and harassment made up 24 incidents.

Breakdown of All Documented Anti-Muslim Bias Incidents

Type of Bias Incidents in 2017

Location of Bias Incidents in 2017

Bias Incident Triggers in 2017

Total Bias Incidents in 2017