In the hours following the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, despite a dearth of information as to the identity or motives of the perpetrators, the media was quick to link the violence with followers of one of the world’s oldest religions — Islam. Reports were full of references to the “Muslim minority in Kenya”, “Arab-looking men”, and “Islamic dress.” The suspect taken into custody shortly after the bombing was described as “Arab speaking”, and the Islamic Jihad was mentioned as a possible perpetrator.
To many Muslims around the world and here at home, the reaction to Friday’s violence was only too familiar. Similarly uninformed speculation led to anti-Muslim hysteria following both the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City and the 1996 downing of TWA Flight 800.
The Council on American Islamic Relations recently issued its annual report on the status of American Muslim civil rights. The report, called “Patterns of Discrimination”, detailed more than 280 incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination, and harassment. It indicated an 18 percent increase in total incidents and a 60 percent rise in discrimination cases.
- Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)