By Michelle Boorstein
The country’s largest advocacy group for Muslims has launched a new “Islamophobia Department,” meant to track in more detail what many see as a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States.
The Council on American Islamic Relations’ announcement this weekend will likely stir praise and criticism.
The science of measuring hate crimes is complex and flawed, due to the lack of people reporting such crimes and also the varied ways in which law enforcement officials decide what role religious hate (or some other kind of hate) played as a motivator. Since public discussion about Islam and mosque-building exploded this summer, there’s been a lot of debate – but little hard facts – to show if American sentiment toward Islam is really changing or if certain groups are just getting louder, or getting disproportionate media attention.
While CAIR, with representatives around the country, has long kept and publicized anecdotal reports about anti-Muslim incidents, it’s not been scientific, so this effort will be lauded by people looking for more data. However, CAIR has long faced critics who say some of its leaders have been too sympathetic to Islamic terrorism and these people will try and cut down CAIR’s new department.
As an aside, I thought it was interesting that CAIR embraced the term Islamophobia since the term does have some critics in the Muslim community. Some believe it conflates criticism of Islam with discrimination against Muslim and tamps debate within the community. Some say the term “phobia” makes it seem like anti-Islamic racism is a disease someone is helpless to have.