NY Times Story on Increased Anti-Islam Violence Avoids Far Bigger Problem With Attacks on Other Minorities


new-york-times-headquartersOn Sunday, The New York Times published a troubling story with the headline, “Hate Crimes Against American Muslims Most Since Post 9-11 Era.” With swelling anger, I read about a new study which supports the proposition that this political climate has added fuel to ignorance igniting an enormous increase in anti-Islam hate crimes. Concerned and interested, I went the extra step of actually reading the underlying study. At that point, some of the concern, at least journalistically, was re-directed towards the Times itself.

To be clear, the stats from the multi-state study cited by the Times are accurate: in 2015, according to researchers at Cal State Bernardino, anti-Islam attacks in the United States were up to 196 from 110 in 2014, and what was characterized as anti-Arab hate crimes went from 21 in 2014, to 67 a year later, increases of 78% and 219% respectively. Serious stuff that should lead to serious concerns. But a line buried near the end of the piece states in passing: “The rise came even as hate crimes against almost all other groups including blacks, Hispanics, Jews, gays and whites either declined or increased only slightly, his study found.”

Yeah but. . .

What you would never know from the Times‘ piece (which reflected the emphasis of the study’s authors) was that the aggregate number of hate crimes against blacks was still about five times that of crimes characterized as “anti-Islam” and “anti-Arab.” An increase between 2014 of 1058 to 1103 in 2015 is close to the aggregate increase categorized as “anti-Islam.” Yes, in terms of percentages it’s not comparable but nothing in the story offers any clue that hate crimes against blacks still remain a far more pervasive problem in this country.

And its not just blacks. According to the study, Jews were targeted based on their religion 502 times in 2015 up from 489 in 2014 — twice as often as Arabs and Muslims combined. The Times’ story added a single caveat: “One exception was hate crimes against transgender people, which rose about 40 percent.” 40%? Seems pretty stark and relevant to a piece highlighting an increase in hate crimes.

Furthermore, the connection to Donald Trump, while hard to dismiss, was mostly speculative and anecdotal since the study was from 2015:

“Police and news media reports in recent months have indicated a continued flow of attacks, often against victims wearing traditional Muslim garb or seen as Middle Eastern.”

News media reports as a source to prove a statistical increase? Really? Is there any question that in this highly charged political environment the media covers attacks on Muslims far more often than attacks on Jews?

This study was worth covering and should raise serious red flags, but rather than just creating a sensationalist headline and piece that fits a particular narrative, it would have been far more instructive, and constructive, to better reflect the broader context and reality of hate crimes in this country.

[Image via shutterstock]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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