Anti-Islamic Hate Crime and the Enduring Effects of 9/11

In this blog entry, on the anniversary of 9/11, Lori Peek, author of Behind the Backlash, describes the aftereffects of the terrorist attacks for the Muslim community.

Behind the Backlash sm FINALSoon after Behind the Backlash was published, I had the opportunity to give a guest lecture on the book at my undergraduate alma mater in Kansas. At the end of the talk, a student raised her hand and asked about the longer-term implications of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Specifically, she wanted to know whether anti-Islamic hate crimes and other forms of discrimination had continued to increase, even years after that fateful day. After she asked that question, another student raised his hand and inquired about the geography of post-9/11 hate crimes: Were they happening more often in big cities or small towns? Were they occurring in places close to or far away from the epicenter of the terror attacks?

In order to answer those questions, I collaborated with my colleague, Dr. Michelle Meyer, to assess the temporal and geographic patterns of anti-Islamic hate crime in the years following the terrorist attacks.* We compiled and geocoded data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Program so that we could analyze the prevalence and geographic distribution of incidents of anti-Islamic hate crime. We also drew on county-level Muslim population estimates so that we could describe the relative risk that Muslims faced in terms of experiencing hate crime in different counties. I briefly outline what we found in this blog post. The full version of our findings is available here.

1. 9/11 Provoked a Sudden and Dramatic Increase in Anti-Islamic Hate Crime

Following 9/11, the onset of hate crime activity was swift and the increase in recorded hate crimes substantial. The total number of hate crimes targeted at Muslims in the month following 9/11 was 58 times the number reported in the month leading up to the disaster. This elevation in hate crime continued for the remainder of 2001 and through the first anniversary of the attacks with 14 times as many anti-Islamic hate crimes in the year following 9/11 compared to the year before.

Figure #1. Anti-Islamic Hate Crimes One Month and One Year Before and After 9/11

(click on charts to make them appear larger)

Fig 1

2. 9/11 Has Had an Enduring Effect on Anti-Islamic Hate Crime

9/11 has had an enduring effect on anti-Islamic hate crime in the U.S., with increased numbers of recorded hate crime representing a “new normal” for Muslim Americans. During the pre-9/11 period, from 1992-2000, the yearly average of anti-Islamic incidents was 23. In the post-9/11 period, from 2002-2009, the yearly average was 134, which is nearly six times greater than before 9/11.

Figure #2. Anti-Islamic Hate Crimes Yearly Totals, 1992 – 2009

Figure 2

3. Since 9/11, Anti-Islamic Hate Crimes against Persons Have Been More Common Than Those Against Property

Hate crime can be any type of criminal offense that is motivated by bias, including crimes against persons as well as crimes against property. While all types of anti-Islamic hate crime surged after 9/11, crimes against Muslim persons (e.g., intimidation, aggravated assault, simple assault) were more common than crimes against their property (e.g., vandalism, theft arson, etc.).

Figure #3. Anti-Islamic Hate Crime Offenses against Persons and Property, 1992 – 2009

Fig 3

4. Intimidation, Vandalism, and Simple Assault Have Been the Most Common Forms of Post-9/11 Anti-Islamic Hate Crime

Hate crime can take many forms, and the FBI data that we analyzed for this work includes 46 distinct bias-motivated offense types. After 9/11, intimidation, vandalism, and simple assault were the three types of anti-Islamic hate crime that were most common. They increased markedly and have remained elevated in the years since.

Figure #4. Anti-Islamic Hate Crime Offense Types, 1992 – 2009

Fig 4

5. Anti-Islamic Hate Crime Has Become Widely Dispersed Geographically since 9/11

The backlash that followed the 9/11 attacks led to an unprecedented number of anti-Islamic hate crimes that were geographically dispersed across the U.S. As shown in Figure #5 below, before 9/11, most anti-Islamic hate crime was concentrated in cities and states with larger Muslim populations. After 9/11, anti-Islamic hate crime spread to both densely- and sparsely-populated counties, to places with small numbers of Muslims, and to areas with no prior experience with this type of hate crime (see Figure #6).

Figure #5. Anti-Islamic Hate Crime, 1992 – September 10, 2001, with Cities and States with the Largest Muslim Populations Highlighted

Fig 5Figure #6. Anti-Islamic Hate Crime in the Years Since 9/11

Fig 6

6. Since 9/11, the Overall Risk of Experiencing Hate Crime has Increased for All Muslims; Those Muslims Living in Counties with Smaller Muslim Populations Have Experienced Greater Relative Risk of Being Victimized

The figures below show the rates of anti-Islamic hate crime per 100,000 for the one year before (Figure #7) and one year after 9/11 (Figure #8). It is clear that the overall risk of experiencing hate crime increased for all Muslims in the United States after 9/11. The data also indicate that areas with smaller populations of Muslims have a higher rate of anti-Islamic hate crimes, meaning that Muslims in counties with few other Muslims are at greater relative risk of experiencing hate crime than those in counties with larger Muslim populations. For example, in the year following 9/11, Saginaw County, Michigan, where the estimated Muslim population in the year 2000 was only 77, had the highest anti-Islamic hate crime rate with 3,896 incidents per 100,000 Muslims. In comparison, Washington, D.C., which has an estimated Muslim population of just over 60,000, had the lowest rate of anti-Islamic hate crime at 1.65 incidents per 100,000 Muslims.

Figure #7 Anti-Islamic Hate Crime Rates in the Year Before 9/11

Fig 7

Figure #8 Anti-Islamic Hate Crime Rates in the Year After 9/11

Fig 8Muslim Americans have endured decades of stereotyping, discrimination and violence, largely triggered by conflicts in the Middle East and acts of domestic and foreign terrorism associated (rightly or wrongly) with the Islamic faith. However, 9/11—the most shocking and deadly terror attacks in the nation’s history—precipitated the largest-ever rise in anti-Islamic hate crime in the U.S. We hope that the above analysis offers a general sense of the short- and longer-term effects of the terrorist attacks on anti-Islamic hate crime activity at the national level. We also think this work has implications for those professionals tasked with more effectively preparing for and responding to the social consequences of terrorist events.

Lori Peek is author of the award-winning book, Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans after 9/11. She is also co-author of Children of Katrina, and co-editor of Displaced: Life in the Katrina Diaspora. Dr. Peek, an Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis at Colorado State University, studies vulnerable populations in disaster. Her work focuses on low-income families, racial and ethnic minorities, women, and children. She has conducted research in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy, in the Gulf Coast region following Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, in Joplin, Missouri after the 2011 tornado, and in New York after 9/11.

Notes

*Peek, Lori and Michelle Meyer Lueck. 2012. “When Hate is a Crime: Temporal and Geographic Patterns of Anti-Islamic Hate Crime after 9/11.” Pp. 203-225 in Crime and Criminal Justice in Disaster, 2nd ed., edited by D. W. Harper and K. Frailing. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

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