In a prepared statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 2, 2017, Prof. Brian Levin -- director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino -- stated, "Hate crime, especially those based on religion, have [sic] increased in recent periods."
Levin, who has dealt extensively with the topic for decades -- analyzing statistics, compiling data and advising American and European policy-makers -- argued that one of the problems involved in tracking hate crimes in the U.S. is that some states do not cooperate in collecting or reporting on the information. Another, he said, is that there is no uniform way in which different bodies (such as the FBI and the Anti-Defamation League) receive and investigate complaints.
Prof. Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. (Image source: CNN video screenshot via CSUSB)
Additional confusion lies in that some crimes initially suspected as having been motivated by hatred of Muslims or Jews often turn out not to be "hate crimes" at all, but something else entirely. One example Levin provided was that of an attack on a Muslim establishment that turned out to be a simple robbery. Another was the recent case of a disturbed American-Israeli teenager who issued bomb threats to Jewish community centers and other institutions in the U.S. and elsewhere.
One thing, nevertheless, seems to be constant and underreported. Since 1992, two years after Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act, the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program information showed that anti-Semitic incidents have been higher than those perpetrated against other groups. By contrast, from 1992 to 2000, anti-Muslim incidents were the second least-reported. This changed in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, when reports on anti-Muslim incidents rose to the rank of second-highest, with a steep spike in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. To this day, the greatest number of reported religion-based hate crimes have been directed at Jews, and the second greatest against Muslims.
(Source: UCR website)
Between 2010 and 2014, the number of people victimized for their religion declined dramatically. This shifted in 2015, when there was a sharp rise in religion-based hate crimes, particularly against Islam and Muslims. Yet even then, Jews were 2.38 times more likely than Muslims to become victims of a hate crime.
Hate crimes -- defined as those directed at someone "based on his race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity" -- are not only illegal; they are immoral and should not be tolerated. However, we must not allow the dictates of political correctness, according to which "Islamophobia" is the most rampant form of bias in America, to cloud the reality that anti-Semitism is still more widespread.
A.Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.