The new Netflix docuseries, American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing, released in anticipation of the first decade anniversary of the April 15, 2013, Boston Marathon terrorist bombing by two deranged brothers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, will undoubtedly reawaken and stoke the hate flames of Islamophobia.
That is the nature of hate—a disease that always foments below the social fabric.
It seems that hate, and the violence it spawns, is everywhere in American society today: its schools, places of worship, political institutions, the family network, or a neighbor’s yard.
Some of the nation’s largest cities—New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and even Austin—recorded their highest levels of hate crimes in 2022 since 1992, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University—San Bernardino.
And even these significant metropolitan increases do not accurately reflect the entire picture of hate crimes in America. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA) imposes a voluntary duty on city, university, and tribal law enforcement agencies to compile hate crimes data in their respective jurisdictions.
In December 2022, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported that in 2020 that 3,500 agencies did not report any hate crimes data to the FBI. This had been a significant problem through the first three decades of the HCSA’s existence, so much so that dozens of police departments in cities with 100,000 or more populations have consistently reported zero hate crimes.
The month before the SPLC report, FBI Director Christopher Wray told a congressional hearing that “some jurisdictions fail to report hate crime statistics, while others claim there are no hate crimes in their community – a fact that would be welcome, if true.”
Wray’s skepticism about communities’ void of hate crimes is more than reasonable. The police departments in two of the cities—Los Angeles and New York—showing marked increases in hate crimes in 2022 were forced to document and report their hate crimes only after President Biden, on May 22, 2021, signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which included the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault and Threats (NO HATE) Act as an amendment.
The FBI reports that Jews and Muslims are the primary targets of religion-motivated hate crimes, while African-American and Asian Americans are the primary targets of race/ethnicity-motivated hate crimes.
The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-N.Y.) took notice of the underreporting of hate crimes by the city’s law enforcement. CAIR issued a report last September titled “Feeling the Hate: Bias and Hate Crimes Experienced by Muslim New Yorkers” that documents “the various forms of bias and hate crimes that Muslim New Yorkers have experienced.
CAIR interviewed 295 Muslim New Yorkers across the city’s five boroughs about the nature of bias and hate crimes, underreporting of these crimes by law enforcement, and the suspected reasons for the underreporting in Muslim communities.
Key findings of the CAIR report include:
- 64% of Muslims have experienced a hate, bias incident, or both;
- 66% believed that they were targeted because of their religion;
- Only 4% of those who experienced a hate crime reported it to law enforcement because they either did not trust law enforcement or felt it is not productive to report to such agencies;
- 34% of bias and hate crimes occurred in educational institutions; and
- 75% of Muslim women have experienced a hate, bias incident, or both.
And why should American Muslims trust law enforcement in this country?
Following 9/11, Muslims became the targets of biased terrorism investigations and manufactured terrorism-related charges. The first suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing case was a Saudi citizen who was an innocent victim of the bombing attack.
In November 2022, The Intercept reported that the U.S. government had prosecuted 982 persons for terrorism since 9/11. Three of those charged defendants were acquitted, while four saw their charges dismissed after the cases against them unraveled. Some of those fabricated prosecutions were based on career criminal informants and convicted child sex offenders.
In 2002, under Republican President George Bush’s administration, tens of thousands of males from Arab and Muslim countries were forced to register with and be fingerprinted by the U.S. government. That fascist program remained in place until President Barak Obama suspended it in 2009. The American Civil Liberties Union reported that the program never managed to find a single individual that could be prosecuted on anything remotely resembling terrorism.
Writing in the 2017 Fordham Law Review, University of Miami Law School Professor Caroline Marla Corbin penned an article whose title alone explains Muslims’ distrust of government: “Terrorists Are Always Muslim but Never White: At the Intersection of Critical Race Theory and Propaganda.”
Professor Corbin opened her legal treatise with this resounding observation:
“When you hear the word ‘terrorist,’ who do you picture? Chances are, it is not a white person. In the United States, two common, though false, narratives about terrorists who attack America abound. We see them on television, in the movies, on the news, and, currently, in the Trump administration. The first is that ‘terrorists are always (brown) Muslims.’ The second is that ‘white people are never terrorists.’”
That is precisely why the international news network Al-Jazeera reported on the September 11, 2022, anniversary of 9/11 that Muslims continue to “battle Islamophobia” in the U.S. in the wake of that terror attack.
Zahra N. Jamal, associate director of Rice University Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance in Houston, told the Arab-based network that 62 percent of Muslims report feeling religion-based hostility, and 65 percent felt disrespected by others.
She added that “That’s almost three times the percentage among Christians. Internalised Islamophobia is more prevalent among Muslims who have faced anti-Muslim tropes in popular culture, news, social media, political rhetoric, and in policy. This negativity impacts their self- image and mental health.”
Muslims in Boston must now live with heightened awareness because of the Netflix “American Manhunt” docuseries and the emotional decade remembrance of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
Time will ease the threat. But, the fact that there is a threat speaks volumes about the current state of the divisive politics that have overtaken American society.