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Number of anti-Muslim complaints in 2023 hit record high: CAIR

Over 8,000 anti-Muslim complaints were recorded across the nation last year, marking the highest total in the 30 years the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has tracked the complaints.

In its report, published Tuesday, CAIR said it received 8,061 complaints of anti-Muslim incidents, surpassing the previous record in 2021, when 6,720 incidents were reported. This number is up 56 percent from 2022, which had the first ever recorded drop in complaints since CAIR started tracking complaints in 1995. 

CAIR received the most complaints in the final three months of the year and accounted for 44 percent of the year’s total tally, the report stated. 

CAIR, a leading Muslim advocacy nonprofit group, connected the late-year surge to the domestic fallout from Israel’s war with Palestinian militant group Hamas.

The conflict began in October after the group’s surprise attack against southern Israel, which left about 1,200 people dead and saw 250 others taken hostage. About 100 of the hostages were returned to Israel during a weeklong cease-fire agreement in December, and another 100 are believed to still be alive in Gaza. 

For the past five months, Israel has embarked on a retaliatory military campaign to destroy Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007. More than 32,800 Palestinians have died in Gaza since early October, per the Gaza Health Ministry, while hundreds of thousands face depleting supplies of food, water, and medicine, according to aid groups.

During the three-month surge in which the most complaints – 3,578 – were received, employment discrimination was the main source of these complaints, followed by hate crimes and incidents, and education discrimination, CAIR noted. 

The tensions quickly spilled beyond the Middle East in early October, and the following months have seen an increase in pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel protests across the U.S. and other parts of the West. Several of these protests took place at college campuses, with students and administration faced with handling issues of free speech and the language used by both sides. 

“Employers, universities and schools were among the primary actors suppressing speech by those who sought to vocally oppose Israel’s genocidal onslaught on Gaza and call attention to Palestinian human rights, particularly Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians.”  

The report referenced the various schools that banned Palestinian-affiliated student groups on campus following the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, along with reports of employers’ not hiring prospects due to their activism for Palestinians. 

Regarding the total tally of last year’s complaints, immigration and asylum cases accounted for the most recordings. CAIR argued cases can “get delayed or intentionally stalled for the fear of the individual being a ‘terrorist’ or involved in ‘terrorist activities.” 

CAIR laid out a series of high-profile anti-Muslim incidents, including the alleged murder of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American and attempted murder of his mother in Illinois, nearly a week after the Oct. 7 attacks. The nonprofit also pointed to the Georgia teacher accused of threatening to behead a 13-year-old Muslim student, who said she was offended by an Israeli flag in the classroom last December. 

CAIR noted last month’s three-month surge also saw a higher number of complaints than in the months following former President Trump’s travel ban that targeted several majority-Muslim countries, which saw nearly half, or about 1,813 complaints. 

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