Mosques were vandalized, women in hijabs were harassed and travelers were singled out for scrutiny at airports because of their faith amid a 17 percent spike in anti-Muslim bias incidents last year, according to a report released Monday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The new report, titled “Targeted,” blames the Trump administration’s travel bans for fueling the problem. Nationwide, there were 2,599 anti-Muslim incidents reported to CAIR; 464 involved federal agencies targeting Muslims in incidents linked to federal travel bans, the report says.

“This increase in anti-Muslim incidents by the federal government is an almost unprecedented level of government hostility toward an American religious minority,” Soofia Tahir, fund development director at CAIR’s New Jersey chapter, said during a press conference at its South Plainfield office. “This in and of itself goes against our shared American values of religious freedom.”

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During his campaign, President Donald Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Complaints surged after his first executive order that banned entry from certain Muslim-majority countries and caused chaos at airports.

The courts struck down the president’s first two travel bans, and a lawsuit over a third, revised version of the ban will be heard Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump has said the ban is needed for national security reasons.

Across the United States, the top five reported kinds of anti-Muslim bias incidents were harassment (14 percent), inappropriate targeting by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (13 percent), hate crimes (12 percent), inappropriate targeting by the FBI (10 percent) and employment discrimination (9 percent).

It was the first time that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol ranked within the top five types of anti-Muslim bias incidents, according to the report. A spokesperson responded in an email that the agency “does not discriminate on the entry of foreign nationals to the United States based on religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

“CBP officers process more than a million travelers a day at U.S. Ports of Entry and are thoroughly trained to enforce U.S. laws and regulations fairly and uniformly,” the spokesperson added.

In total, CAIR received 5,650 reports of potential bias cases in 2017, but verified slightly less than half as bias incidents based on religion, ethnicity or national origin.

The rhetoric of the administration was also contributing to the problem, fueling incidents of bullying and hate, said Jay Rehman, a staff attorney at CAIR-NJ.

“The unconstitutional Muslim bans have succeeded in demonizing Muslims and making society more hostile to American Muslim families and to their children,” he said.

New Jersey bucks trend

In New Jersey, cases included a rash of death threats called in to the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson, anti-Muslim graffiti at a mosque in Bayonne, and incidents where women had their hijabs, or head coverings, yanked from their heads, said James Sues, executive director of CAIR-NJ.

Even the famous were not immune, said Sues. He noted that Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a New Jersey resident who wears a hijab, was detained for two hours by U.S. Customs at an airport in February last year.

Yet there was good news in New Jersey.

While reported incidents rose across most of the country, they dropped in the Garden State from 69 in 2016 to 57 last year. Sues said most incidents go unreported, so it was hard to draw conclusions from the decline. He urged people to report bias incidents to police and to CAIR New Jersey’s Civil Rights Department.

But overall, he said, there were fewer bias incidents and hate crimes in New Jersey compared with other states. That’s in part because of the state’s progressive politics, but also because New Jersey has a well-established Muslim population where many people know them as neighbors, teachers and professionals, Sues said.

“A lot of people have Muslim neighbors and don’t fear Muslims as much,” he said.

An estimated 250,000 New Jersey residents are Muslim, or about 3 percent of the total population, according to CAIR.

The Power of Prosecutors

Prosecutors have used their power to pack jails and prisons. And it has taken decades, billions of dollars, and thousands of laws to turn the United States into the largest incarcerator in the world. But did you know that prosecutors also have the power to dismantle this machine — even without changing a single law?

This video series, presented by the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice and Brooklyn Defender Services, shows how prosecutors can single-handedly transform the broken American criminal justice system.

Featuring DeRay McKesson (civil rights activist), Nina Morrison (The Innocence Project), Baratunde Thurston (Author and Comedian), Adam Foss (a former prosecutor), Scott Hechinger (Brooklyn Defender Services), John Pfaff (professor and author of Locked In), Josie Duffy-Rice (Fair Punishment Project), and Brandon Buskey (ACLU).

Prosecutors have the power to flood jails and prisons, ruin lives, and deepen racial disparities with the stroke of a pen. But they also have the discretion to do the opposite. This video explores the power of prosecutors to continue to drive mass incarceration — or end it.


The U.S.’s wealth-based incarceration system allows those with money to walk free before trial, while those who can’t make bail remain locked up. Guess who decides whether someone will have to pay bail? Believe it or not, the answer is often prosecutors. But they also have the power to recommend freedom.


Prosecutors are the gatekeepers of the criminal legal system. They decide whether to prosecute and what to charge. Their harsh and discriminatory practices have fueled a vast expansion of incarceration as the answer to societal ills over the last several decades. This video exposes how basic charging decisions can reduce our reliance on incarceration and lead to healthier communities.

Plea Bargains

Did you know that more than nine out of 10 cases are resolved by plea bargain? That’s in large measure because the harsh criminal laws, like mandatory minimum sentences, have stripped judges of much of their discretion and have instead given prosecutors all the negotiating power. The result: Overwhelmingly, people plead guilty, even when innocent, out of fear of a negative outcome at trial.


Almost all prosecutors in America are elected officials. And voters across the United States — in red and in blue states alike — strongly prefer elected prosecutors who are committed to reducing incarceration, ending racial disparities, and being fully transparent. This video explains how voters can hold prosecutors accountable because power concedes nothing without a demand.

Sign up for ACLU action alerts to end mass incarceration. Text SMARTJUSTICE to 82623.