In his remarks to the ADL Saturday night, Attorney General Eric Holder, making a case for the imminent federal hate crimes law, said:
I want to reflect also tonight on another group for whom race and religion are treated race and religion are treated as defining characteristics, to the concern and
detriment of us all. I’m speaking of Muslim Americans.
This can be a difficult time to be a Muslim in
America. The terrorist attacks of September 11th were a terrible blow to
all Americans, and Muslim Americans shared in our collective grief about the
loss of thousands of innocent lives. But Muslim Americans have also suffered in
an additional way: Crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have
escalated dramatically since September 11th. Some hate-mongers seem to
have adopted the twisted logic that an attack on innocents can somehow be
avenged by another attack on innocents.
Strictly speaking, anti-Islamic crimes have indeed increased since 9/11. Prior to 2001, they were, according to FBI hate crime statistics, running at 30 or so victims per year–less than hate crimes against either Protestants or Catholics. In 2001, unquestionably thanks to 9/11, the number spiked to 554. Since then, it’s ranged from 201 in 2004 to 142 in 2007, the last year for which data are available. (The 2008 numbers are due out in a month.)
That’s a good deal more than the number of victims of anti-Protestant or anti-Catholic crimes, but well below the number of victims of anti-Jewish crimes, which has only once dipped below 1,000 since 1995. In 2007, anti-homosexual crimes claimed nearly 1,500 victims. Also in 2007, there were 3,434 black victims, 908 white victims, and 830 Hispanic victims of crimes based on hatred of those groups. In a word, by the standard measure, crimes against Muslims as Muslims don’t amount to lot.
It’s significant that Holder cited as evidence not any of the above data, but last month’s Pew survey showing that nearly 60 percent of Americans believe Muslims to be subject to a lot of discrimination–more than any other group than gays and lesbians. But as I noted at the time, the fact that people think there’s a lot of discrimination doesn’t make it so. Personally, I can take hate crimes legislation or leave it. Whatever its merits, however, there is no justification for the AG to give the impression that one group is particularly subject to crimes when his own data don’t show it.