After a massive spike in 2001, hate crimes against Muslims in the United States began a slow descent that reversed itself in 2010, rising 50 percent to 160 reported crimes. That rise occurred in tandem with a rise in hostility to planned mosques across the country, particularly the Park51 Islamic community center in New York City. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok reported today that the FBI’s latest statistics show anti-Muslim crimes in 2011 dipped only slightly from that recent peak:
Hate crimes against perceived Muslims, which jumped up 50% in 2010 largely as a result of anti-Muslim propagandizing, remained at relatively high levels last year, according to 2011 hate crime statistics released today by the FBI.
The bureau reported that there were 157 reported anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2011, down slightly from the 160 recorded in 2010. The 2011 crimes occurred during a period when Islam-bashing propaganda, which initially took off in 2010, continued apace.
Rhetoric from conservatives aimed at inspiring fear about Muslims in the U.S. and sharia law accompanied last year’s high numbers, which a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin by a white supremacist. Sikhs follow a separate faith from Muslims, but the two are often conflated and hate crimes against both groups have risen in tandem in the past. Just last week, vandals left a slain pig in front of a mosque near Houston, TX. “I think it borders being a hate crime at least from our prospective,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations’s Mustafaa Carroll, referring to the fact that Muslims do not eat pork and consider pigs an unclean animal.
The FBI’s hate crime statistics are also better at revealing the direction and severity of trends rather than actual numbers, which they tend to vastly understate. A report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2005 determined that the actual amount of hate crimes in the country range from 19 to 31 times higher than the FBI’s numbers. As Potok put it: “Some 56% of hate crimes are never reported to police and more than half of those that are are mischaracterized as non-hate crimes. Nevertheless, the FBI statistics can be used to get a sense of general trends.”
The FBI report also found that crimes motivated by “anti-Jewish” animus fell to 771 in 2011, from the 1,109 in 2000. Jews and Jewish institutions accounted for 63 percent of all religion-based hate crimes in 2011, however.