Civil Rights Report 2017: Bias Incident Data

In 2016, CAIR recorded a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim bias incidents over 2015. This was accompanied by a 44 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes in the same period.

From 2014 to 2016, anti-Muslim bias incidents jumped 65 percent. In that two-year period, CAIR finds that hate crimes targeting Muslims surged 584 percent. Islamophobic bias continues its trend toward increasing violence.

Total Hate Crimes

Total Intake

For comparison, researchers at the California State University, San Bernardino reported a 78 percent increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims in 2015 after reviewing official hate crimes data for twenty states. In November 2016, The New York Times published FBI data which demonstrated that “attacks against American Muslims surged” in 2015 jumping “about 67 percent over 2014.”

In total, CAIR received 4,282 reports of potential bias incidents cases in 2016. Staff determined that 2,213 (52%) 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 of incident, factor that triggered the incident.

Type of Abuse

Harassment, a non-violent or non-threatening bias incident, was the most frequent type of abuse in 2016, accounting for 18 percent of the total number of anti-Muslim bias incidents.type

Incidents during which the complainant was questioned by FBI employees or otherwise appeared to be inappropriately targeted by the agency made up 15 percent of cases, making this the second largest category. Employment issues—including denial of work, being passed over for promotion, or harassment by a supervisor or other senior staff—were the third largest category, accounting for 13 percent of the total.

Hate crimes placed fourth, accounting for 12 percent of the cases CAIR documented. Denials of religious accommodation, for instance when a complainant is denied permission to wear a headscarf at work or have a Quran in their jail cell, were the fifth most frequent, accounting for 8 percent of total anti-Muslim bias incidents.

Note: Cases with location “unknown/not relevant” were not ranked.


locationSeventeen percent of anti-Muslim bias incidents occurred in a residence or home in 2016, making this the most likely place where an incident to take place.

Schools, colleges, and universities were the second most common location at 12 percent. This was followed by commercial buildings accounting for 12 percent.

At 10 and 7 percent respectively were air, bus, and train terminals, and highways, roads, alleys, and streets.

Trigger Factor

triggerThe most prevalent trigger of an anti-Muslim bias incident in 2016 was the victim’s ethnicity or national origin, accounting for 35 percent of the total.

16 percent of incidents occurred as a result of a woman wearing a headscarf.

Other miscellaneous Muslim activity—events such as rallies, community picnics, or a day at the state capitol visiting legislators organized primarily for Muslims—constituted an additional 11 percent.

An individual’s name was the next most common trigger factor, accounting for 8 percent of the incidents. The fifth trigger was the target being a place of worship. This calculated to 6 percent of the total.

Note: Cases with trigger “other/unknown” were not ranked.

Federal Agencies

federal agenciesOf the 540 total incidents in 2016 for which federal government entities were identified as the instigator: the FBI accounted for 62 percent, TSA accounted for 15 percent, CBP accounted for 12 percent, USCIS accounted for 4 percent, and ICE accounted for 2 percent. In 5 percent of cases, multiple federal government agencies were involved.