6-year-old Wadea

Six-year-old Wadea al-Fayoume was stabbed 26 times and his mother more than a dozen times in an alleged hate crime committed by their 71-year-old white landlord in Plainfield Township, Illinois on October 14, 2023.

(Photo: Family photo)

'Staggering' Rise in Reports of Islamophobia During Gaza War

"People and institutions have spent the past two months weaponizing Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias to both justify the ongoing violence against Palestinians in Gaza and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights."

Three university students were shot and wounded in Burlington, Vermont. A New York City food cart vendor was repeatedly harassed by a former U.S. State Department official. A six-year-old boy was stabbed to death in Plainfield Township, Illinois.

Those are just three high-profile examples of what the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States said Thursday is a dramatic surge in Islamophobia across the country since U.S.-backed Israeli forces launched a devastating war on the Gaza Strip two months ago in response to a Hamas-led attack on Israel.

From October 7 to December 2, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) national headquarters and chapters received a total of 2,171 requests for help and reports of bias—a 172% increase over a similar two-month period the previous year.

"It's staggering to see this kind of spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate in less than two months," said CAIR research and advocacy director Corey Saylor. "Far too many people and institutions have spent the past two months weaponizing Islamophobia and anti-Arab bias to both justify the ongoing violence against Palestinians in Gaza and silence supporters of Palestinian human rights here in America."

The incredible bloodshed and destruction in Gaza—with over 17,000 Palestinians dead, about 80% of the 2.3 million residents displaced, and many homes, hospitals, mosques, and schools destroyed—have led to large-scale protests across the United States demanding that the U.S. government stop giving Israel billions of dollars in military aid.

Throughout the war, there has also been a dramatic increase in reports of antisemitism across the United States. There have also been efforts to conflate discrimination against Jews and legitimate criticism of the Israeli government—including congressional legislation. Critics of what many experts around the world are calling Israel's "genocidal" violence in Gaza have faced consequences, from job losses to the suspension of university campus groups promoting Palestinian rights.

As Common Dreams reported Thursday afternoon, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) announced "an official congressional investigation with the full force of subpoena power" into the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and other schools regarding antisemitism on campus and administrators' responses.

CAIR revealed that at its national headquarters, First Amendment issues, or violations of the right to free speech and expression, are the most common cases at nearly 34%, a 63% increase from the first month of the war to the last four weeks. Those reports are followed by problems with employment (22%), hate crimes and hate speech (17%), and education and bullying (14%).

The cases include that of Jana Alwan, a Muslim woman who was riding a train in Washington, D.C. on October 18. According to a letter CAIR sent last month to the Metro Transit Police Department, an unidentified white man flashed a gun and threatened to behead Alwan, who "was wearing a keffiyeh, an identifiable scarf traditionally worn by Palestinian and Arab people."

Earlier this month, the Idara Jaferia Islamic Center in Burtonsville, Maryland, was evacuated because of a bomb threat. CAIR is calling on state and local law enforcement to bring hate crime charges against the perpetrator.

"From Burlington to Chicago to D.C. and elsewhere, innocent Americans are suffering the consequences of this wave of bigotry," CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad said Thursday. "Until our nation stops the violence IN Gaza and rejects bigotry here in America, we fear that both Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism will continue to spin out of control."

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