Civil Rights Report 2017: Methodology

Each year, thousands of complainants contact CAIR through a variety of media, including telephone, email, and the online complaint system. When possible, CAIR staff also may also reach out to offer their services to individuals whose incidents were reported in news sources and not directly to CAIR.

With each case, civil rights staffers review preliminary materials and conduct extensive interviews with prospective clients as part of the confidential intake process. After gathering adequate information to determine whether a case contains an identifiable element of religious, ethnic or national origin bias, staffers then strip the case of any confidential and identifying information. This information remains in their independent case management system, and the case is entered into the national CAIR civil rights database.

Launched in 2014, this national database is used by all CAIR chapters to chart incidents of religious discrimination as they occur across the country. Prior to gaining access to the system, staffers must complete training on how to categorize cases and use the system.

To enter a new incident, staff first specify the state in which the incident occurred, the date of the incident, and whether there was an apparent element of religious discrimination. If the latter is marked, the form expands for the staffer to categorize the case based on a number of data points including, the type of abuse the complainant experienced, the location of the incident, the triggering factor that lead to it, and so on. Numerous cases contain elements of many of these factors. Staff is therefore trained to only select the representative issues which best describe the complaint.

In addition to direct intake via the civil rights staff, CAIR also monitors local and national news sources and media reports to collect incidents of anti-Muslim bias. Each external report is fact-checked, verified by a third party, and vetted to exclude false cases or those which are found to have no discernible element of religious discrimination. To prevent duplicate case entry, each incident culled from the media is cross-checked with the appropriate CAIR chapter prior to its entry into the national database.

Thousands of cases have gone through CAIR’s system in the past few years. Irrespective of the fact that not all cases contain evidence of religious discrimination, each case still passes through the investigative stage in order to determine whether CAIR is able to assist the complainant. Assistance can include referral to an appropriate government agency, community organization, or private attorney, in addition to directing the complainant to information relevant to their issue. In effect, this means that each case fed through the preliminary intake and categorization process requires a minimum of three to four hours of staff time to address, regardless of whether it is actionable. Therefore, it is conclusive that any case listed in this report as containing an element of religious discrimination has undergone a thorough vetting process which seeks to ensure the highest possible form of accuracy.