The project defines these incidents as those that involve threats, harassment, physical harm, attempts at physical harm, or any other criminal incidents that were reported as motivated by prejudice against Muslims. The project relies on media reports because self-reported incidents are hard to verify, and we avoid the rubric “hate crimes” due to inconsistencies in different local and state jurisdictions as well as the fact that some states have no hate crime laws on the books. Included among this category are cases such as a December 2016 incident during which a female Muslim municipal employee was ridiculed by a male state employee, who also grabbed the woman’s hijab off her head and threw it on the ground. The man was arrested but not charged with a hate crime. Nevertheless, the incident demonstrates harassment and anti-Muslim bias.
The project excludes incidents without explicit anti-Muslim bias that may be motivated by anti-immigrant or anti-Middle Eastern bias. For example, we do not include a 2015 incident at Penn State University during which an Indian student was harassed and assaulted by another student who admitted it was because the victim appeared to be Middle Eastern. The project does not presume that perpetrators of prejudice-driven violence and crimes are informed enough to target the right people. However, we do not want to run the risk of conflating anti-immigrant or anti-Middle Eastern bias with anti-Muslim bias.
Some incidents clearly demonstrated anti-Muslim bias but did not involve criminal acts or violence. This was apparent in a December 2017 incident during which a Pearland, TX, substitute teacher called the police on a Muslim 6-year-old with Down syndrome because she claimed to have heard the child say “Allah” and “boom” several times in class. According to the child’s father, the claims are impossible because the child does not speak at all. Despite obvious anti-Muslim bias, such cases are not included in the project because they are not characterized by violence or criminal incidents.
Furthermore, we did not include a number of incidents that could not be directly linked to anti-Muslim prejudice. We also did not include incidents of violence and crimes against groups often mistaken as Muslim, such as Sikhs, unless there was evidence that the suspect was driven by anti-Muslim bias. We did not include a January 2017 incident in Woodland, CA, where a Sikh-owned business was burglarized and vandalized with racist messages such as “terrorist” and the N-word, before the perpetrators attempted to burn down the building. While the messages are obviously racist, they are not explicitly anti-Muslim. We did include an October 2016 incident in Lakeland, TN, during which a group of teenagers assaulted an Israeli man because he “looked Muslim” to them. The man had no affiliation with Islam. There was, however, explicit anti-Muslim bias present in this case.