Islamophobia On The Decline, But Still Potent
A national Islamic civil rights group says it's noted a "small, but highly welcome" decrease in discrimination against American Muslims and actions designed to create fear of Islam.
But it also found dozens of examples of legislation it considers anti-Islamic and more than 50 acts designed to destroy mosques or prevent them from being built.
According to the report, which covers 2011 and 2012, 78 bills or amendments designed to curb or prohibit Islamic religious practices or laws were introduced in 29 state legislatures and the U.S. Congress.
One of those states is Arizona. According to the Pew Research Center's Religion and Public Life Project, Arizona lawmakers introduced at least six bills to restrict state courts from considering foreign or religious laws. At least one of these laws explicitly prohibited Sharia - Islamic religious and moral code - as well as other religious codes.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a watered-down version of the bill, banning enforcement of any foreign law that violates the state or federal constitution, in 2011.
Texas and New Mexico have also introduced (but not passed) bills to prohibit use of religious law in state court.
Among the "anti-mosque acts" recorded by CAIR was the burning of a mosque in Stockton, Calif. by a suspected arsonist in 2011.
Several acts of intimidation at mosques around the Southwest were too recent to be included in the report. In June, a Texas man was indicted for threatening to bomb a mosque under construction in Tennessee.
And in July, a man walked into a San Diego mosque and threatened to kill the congregants.
CAIR's report on Islamophobia also highlighted 37 nonprofit groups it calls the "inner core" of Islamophobia. Two California groups were among those identified: Concerned American Citizens, based in Temecula, and Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, based in Los Angeles.
On its website, the group Concerned American Citizens says it is "dedicated to promoting the separation of Shariah from spiritual Islam." The group states that it supports the freedom to practice spiritual Islam, but denounces "Seventh Century barbaric government laws 'Shariah.'"
Both Southern California groups had opposed the building of an Islamic center in the Temecula Valley.
At a presentation of the report in San Diego, Hanif Mohebi, executive director of the local CAIR chapter, said he has received more than 80 complaints of employment discrimination, intimidation and bullying from members of the San Diego Muslim community, which he said numbers about 120,000 people.
Among the complaints, he mentioned a couple that was denied service at a San Diego restaurant and a woman who had her headscarf yanked off by a stranger.
"We respect freedom of speech," Mohebi said, "but when people are unfortunately motivated by these organizations, and they in turn do these kinds of acts, we need to at least be aware of that and educate the community about it."
Mohebi said the number of complaints from Muslims had actually gone up this year compared to last year, but that the increase could be due to better outreach by the organization to gather such complaints.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An email sent by the reporter to the contact address listed on the website of Concerned American Citizens has not yet been answered. This story will be updated if or when an answer is received.