Should you read Unequal Protection: The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States 2005, an annual report issued last week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), you'll learn how the Muslim experience in America is worsening. Specifically, the number of "anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States" has gone up dramatically: from 42 cases in 2002, to 93 cases in 2003, to 141 in 2004.
This news prompted headlines in the mainstream media. "Muslims Report 50% Increase in Bias Crimes," announced the New York Times; "Crimes, Complaints Involving Muslims Rise," broadcast the Washington Post; and "Muslims Cite a Rise in Hate Crimes," echoed the Los Angeles Times. That these leading newspapers treated the CAIR study as a serious piece of research served as an important endorsement.
But CAIR is part of the Wahhabi Lobby, so (unlike the mainstream media reporters) we thought it a good idea to take a closer look at the report. We examined in detail some "examples of anti-Muslim hate crime reports received by CAIR in 2004," on p. 43, plus some "samples" on p. 53 and discovered a pattern of sloppiness, exaggeration, and distortion:
CAIR cites the July 9, 2004 case of apparent arson at a Muslim-owned grocery store in Everett, Washington. But investigators quickly determined that Mirza Akram, the store's operator, staged the arson to avoid meeting his scheduled payments and to collect on an insurance policy. Although Akram's antics were long ago exposed as a fraud, CAIR continues to list this case as an anti-Muslim hate crime.
CAIR also states that "a Muslim-owned market was burned down in Texas" on August 6, 2004. But already a month later, the owner was arrested for having set fire to his own business. Why does CAIR include this incident in its report?
CAIR lists the March 2005 lawsuit filed by the Salmi family for the firebombing of their family van as one example of a hate crime report it received in 2004. However, the crime named in the lawsuit occurred in March 2003, was already reported by CAIR in 2003, and should not have been tabulated again in the 2004 report.
CAIR reports that "a home-made bomb exploded outside of the Champions Mosque in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas," staking its claim on eyewitness reports that on July 4, 2004, "two white males" were seen placing the bomb. We inquired about the incident and found that Spring's sheriff department could not locate any police files about an explosion. Further inquiries to the mosque and an e-mail to CAIR both went unanswered. There is scant evidence that any crime even occurred.
CAIR notes that "investigators in Massachusetts are still investigating a potential hate-motivated arson against the Al-Baqi Islamic Center in Springfield." However the case was long ago ruled a simple robbery, news that even CAIR's own website has posted. The Associated Press reported on January 21, 2005, that prosecutors determined the fire was set by teen-age boys "who broke into the Al-Baqi mosque to steal money and candy, then set the fire to cover their tracks." The boys, they clarified, "weren't motivated by hatred toward Muslims."
CAIR describes what happened to a Muslim family in Tucson, Arizona: "bullet shots pierced their home as they ate dinner in October 2004" and two months later their truck was smashed and vandalized. But the only evidence that either incident was motivated by hate of Muslims is the Dehdashti family itself, not the police. Detective Frank Rovi of Pima County Sheriff's Department, who handled the shooting investigation, said that according to the neighbors, the desert area by the Dehdashti house was often used for target practice. Neither incident was classified as a hate crime and both cases were closed by February 2005, long before the CAIR report went to press.
Of twenty "anti-Muslim hate crimes" in 2004 that CAIR describes, at least six are invalid – and further research could likely find problems with the other fourteen instances.
Nor is this the first unreliable CAIR report; earlier ones were just as bad. Speaking about the 1996 CAIR report, terrorism expert Steven Emerson noted in congressional testimony that "a large proportion of the complaints have been found to be fabricated, manufactured, distorted or outside standard definitions of hate crimes." The 1996 report included the arrest of Musa Abu Marzouk, a Hamas leader, and the trial of Omar Abdul-Rahman, the blind sheikh and ringleader of the foiled "Day of Terror" plot to blow up New York City landmarks.
Even more absurdly, CAIR classified as an American hate crime the shooting of Ahmed Hamida in Jerusalem on February 26, 1996, as he fled after driving his car into a crowd of Israeli civilians, killing one and injuring twenty-three others. One wonders why the killing of a terrorist in Israel would be classified as an American issue; more of CAIR's sloppiness?
Indeed, very little of what CAIR asserts checks out. CAIR's significant inaccuracy has potentially great consequence. Note what happened after Newsweek reported in its May 9, 2005, issue that the Koran had been desecrated at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo, Cuba. Protests raged in the Muslim world, including demonstrations that turned violent in Afghanistan and killed at least sixteen people. Newsweek eventually retracted the story, but a bit late. Had things turned out otherwise, CAIR's erroneous report could have provoked similar violence.
The staff at CAIR does not divulge to us its reasons for not retracting at least the provably false incidents embedded in its inflated "hate" figures, but we can think of two reasons: to scare its constituency, thereby raising more money; and to put the American public on the defensive, thereby winning more privileges for Islam, such as the 2000 U.S. Senate resolution inveighing against the "discrimination and harassment" suffered by the American Muslim community.
But why do journalists report the results of CAIR's survey – as though it came from a source without a viewpoint bias, as though past studies had been reliable, as though its polls are scientific, as though it has not been party to threats against an American Muslim dissident, as though it has not protected Osama bin Laden's image, as though five of CAIR's staff and board members have not already been associated with terrorism, and as though it is not named as a defendant in 9/11 terror lawsuit?
One wonders what it will take for old media to ignore CAIR's unreliable research and instead start reporting the words of Steven Pomerantz, a former chief of the FBI's counterterrorism section, that CAIR's activities "effectively give aid to international terrorist groups."
May 23, 2005 update: For a follow up, see "MSM Criticizes CAIR, CAIR Brazens It Out."
Mar. 9, 2011 update: Clare M. Lopez, Christine Brim, Roland Peer of The Center for Security Policy released a 42-page, revised edition of Religious Bias Crimes 2000-2009: Muslim, Jewish and Christian Victims - Debunking the Myth of a Growing Trend in Muslim Victimization. This study expands and updates the above analysis.