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The Myth of the Anti-Muslim Backlash

Hysteria hasn't swept the country since the Ft. Hood terrorist attack.

11:00 PM, Dec 21, 2009 • By GARY BAUER
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Backlash: a strong or violent reaction, as to some social or political change.

It has been more than a month since U.S. Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly murdered 14 people and wounded 30 others at Fort Hood military base in Texas. And while we were led to believe that the rampage by Hasan, who is Muslim, would provoke a strong and violent reaction against Arab and Muslim Americans, a backlash has been conspicuous only by its absence.

In fact, in the immediate aftermath of each of the dozen attacks by Muslim Americans since 9-11, the conversation has been dominated by predictions of inevitable violence toward Muslims by bigoted Americans unable to control their rage. And each time a backlash has been virtually nonexistent. Our journalistic and political elites have become terrorism's unwitting domestic enablers, perceiving religion-based violence where there is none, while ignoring it where it is widespread and intensifying.

After Hasan's terrorist attack, an Associated Press headline read, "Another attack leaves U.S. Muslims fearing backlash." A Christian Science Monitor story was titled, "Fort Hood Shootings: US Muslims feel new heat."

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared: "We object to, and do not believe, that anti-Muslim sentiment should emanate from this." And U.S. Army Chief of Staff George Casey said, "I'm concerned that this increased speculation [about Hasan's motives] could cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers. And I've asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that. ... as horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that's worse."

But the data show that America's more than two million Muslims have little to fear from their fellow citizens. According to crime statistics compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the number of hate crimes against Muslim Americans increased in the immediate aftermath of 9-11. But it declined precipitously after that, and has remained low ever since.

Of 6,832 religion-based hate crimes reported between 2002 and 2006, 4,627, or 68 percent, were committed not against Muslims but against Jews, while 744, or 11 percent, were committed against Muslims. In 2007 there were 1,477 reported offenses motivated by religious bias. Again, 68 percent were committed against Jews, and only 9 percent against Muslims. Reported hate crimes against Catholics and Protestants accounted for 8.4 percent.

And recently-released FBI statistics for 2008 show that 65.7 percent of religion-motivated hate crimes were anti-Jewish, 8.4 percent anti-Christian and 7.7 percent anti-Islamic. That means there were 1,013 cases of hate crimes motivated by anti-Semitism in 2008, the highest number of hate crimes against Jews reported since 2001. There were just 105 reported cases of anti-Islamic hate crimes.

Don't believe the FBI's statistics? Data compiled by Muslim lobby groups paint a similar picture. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Research Institute's 2003-2007 Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Arab Americans found "The rate of violent hate crimes against Arab Americans continued to decline from the immediate post 9-11 surge, to a level somewhat but not dramatically increased over that seen in the five years leading up to the 2001 attacks."
A 2008 survey by Human Rights First called Violence Against Muslims found only two assaults based on anti-Muslim sentiment in 2007 and 2008, no incidents under "violent backlash to terrorist and other attacks" and just one incident under "attacks on places of worship and cemeteries."

Almost all of the "backlash" against Muslims following acts of Islamic domestic terrorism has consisted of acerbic blog posts, tightened restrictions at mosques and enhanced airport security.

In the more than a month since the Fort Hood massacre, the only religion-based crime I could find was committed by a young Muslim in California at a mall kiosk. He tore a crucifix from shopper's neck and shouted anti-Christian slurs and "Allah is power."

While reports of attacks against Muslim Americans remain low, it is worrisome that attacks by homegrown Jihadists have increased. Since 9-11, at least 60 Muslim Americans linked to jihadist groups have been convicted of terrorism and national security charges against American residents. As Sec. Napolitano said in a recent speech:

"We've seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as Al Qaeda. Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront."

The Los Angeles Times recently reported:

"[FBI] investigations have run across Americans suspected of being operatives of Al Qaeda and its allies who were trained overseas and, in several cases, allegedly conspired with top terrorism bosses. They include a convert from Long Island, N.Y, who was captured in Pakistan late last year; a Chicago businessman accused of scouting foreign targets for a Pakistani network; and at least 15 Somali American youths from Minneapolis who returned to fight in their ancestral homeland."

The emergence of Americans traveling abroad to train for Jihad was highlighted again in early December when five Muslim American men were arrested in Pakistan, allegedly en route to North Waziristan for training with the Taliban and al Qaeda to fight American troops in Afghanistan.

A Rand Corporation report states that of the more than two dozen homegrown terror plots uncovered in the U.S. since 9-11, ten surfaced in 2009. That puts "the level of activity in 2009 much higher than that of previous years," Rand senior adviser Brian Jenkins told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in November.

The misplaced fear of igniting an anti-Muslim backlash is a consequence of the pervasive and stifling political correctness that surrounds Islam in the West. It prevents many of our journalistic and political elites from naming our enemy and compels them to accommodate radical Islam most readily in the very places it can cause the most damage--in our prisons, public schools, and military.

American Muslim radicalization is happening in a very tolerant America. The United States contains more than 1,200 mosques, and since 9-11 it has elected its first two Muslims congressmen as well as a president who inexplicably believes our country is as much Muslim as it is Christian, and who habitually refers to Islam as a "great religion."

According to the New York Times, in 2005 more people from Muslim countries became legal permanent United States residents -- nearly 96,000 -- than in any year in the previous two decades. Next year, the first accredited Muslim college in the United States, Zaytuna College, is set to open its doors even though some of its founders have shown radical Islamic sympathies.

At a time when Swiss voters have banned the nation's Muslims from building minarets, French officials are considering outlawing the burka, and Italian politicians are mulling legislation to prohibit mosque construction, the U.S. is increasingly looking like the most welcome destination for Muslims.

A Rasmussen poll immediately after the Fort Hood massacre found that a majority of Americans were at least somewhat concerned that the shooting would prompt a backlash against Muslims in the military. They needn't have been concerned. Since 9-11, every Muslim terrorist attack on American soil has been followed not by a violent backlash, but by outreach and conciliation toward Muslim Americans. And then by more attacks--by radical Islamists.
Instead of fretting about a nonexistent backlash against Muslims, perhaps we should be examining more closely what is happening on radical Islamic websites and in some U.S. prisons, mosques, and Islamic schools that is causing increasing numbers of young American Muslims to embrace jihad against their neighbors.

Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer was domestic policy adviser to President Reagan and is president of American Values, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families.