The Council on American-Islamic Relations, California (CAIR-CA), is a chapter of the nation’s largest American Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. CAIR-CA’s mission is to
enhance the understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
Through its offices in the Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR- LA), Sacramento Valley/Central California (CAIR-SV/ CC), San Diego (CAIR-SD), and the San Francisco
Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA), CAIR-CA serves California’s estimated one million American Muslims.
CAIR-CA provides direct legal services to refugees/asylees, immigrants, and victims of discrimination. CAIR-CA also works with the media, facilitates community education as it relates to civil rights and civic participation, and engages in policy advocacy.
Amr Shabaik, CAIR-LA Civil Rights Managing Attorney; Amina Fields, CAIR-LA Immigrants’ Rights Attorney; Dina Chehata, CAIR-LA Civil Rights Attorney; Amir Naim, CAIR-SFBA Immigrants’ Rights Attorney; Ammad Rafiqi, CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights & Legal Services Coordinator; Brittney Rezaei, CAIR-SFBA Managing Attorney; Jeffrey Wang, CAIR-SFBA Civil Rights Attorney; Sahar Mousavi, CAIR-SFBA Immigrants’ Rights Attorney; Jeena Malik, CAIR-SV/CC Immigrants’ Rights Attorney; and Layli Shirani, CAIR- CAIR-SV/CC Senior Civil Rights Attorney; edited and compiled this report.
CAIR-CA has repeatedly advocated on behalf of American
Muslim students, who faced escalating incidents of anti-
Muslim bias in the period following September 11, 2001.
This bias has only intensified with the current government
administration. In the year leading up to the 2016 elections, the FBI reported a 67% increase in anti-Muslim
hate crimes, while CAIR-CA recorded a staggering 584%
surge in anti-Muslim hate crimes3 from 2014 to 20164 In the
five days following the 2016 presidential election, more
than 30 cases of anti-Muslim incidents and over 120 anti-immigrant
incidents were reported across the nation.5 Of
these, over 60 incidents took place at universities.6 In
2017, CAIR offices nationwide reported a 15% increase
in hate crimes, hate incidents, and discrimination against
Muslims in the United States.7
In response to the increasing Islamophobia, CAIR-CA
has provided direct legal services to students who
have been subjected to religious-based discrimination
and harassment. CAIR-CA has also worked to educate
college students regarding their rights. Specifically, we
have provided workshops across California educating
college students regarding their rights to freedom of
religion, religious accommodations, freedom of speech,
the right to protest, and their right to be free from unlawful
or harmful censorship and surveillance on campus.
CAIR-CA has also developed ongoing legislative and
policy initiatives encouraging schools to enforce antidiscrimination
measures and protect all students’ right to
free speech and religious expression.
IN THE FIVE DAYS FOLLOWING THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, MORE THAN 30 CASES OF ANTI-MUSLIM INCIDENTS AND OVER 120 ANTI-IMMIGRANT INCIDENTS WERE REPORTED ACROSS THE NATION.
These survey findings show that while Muslim students have become more visible on campuses, they are still often subjected to pervasive stereotypes, micro-aggressions, harassment, and discrimination due to their religious identity or political advocacy. In this report, CAIR-CA offers recommendations to students and schools to ensure that college campuses remain a haven for individual expression and growth, free of discrimination and harassment.
The survey was administered from January 2019 through
March 2020 by CAIR-CA’s four offices covering the
Greater Los Angeles Area, Sacramento Valley and Central
California, San Diego, and San Francisco Bay Area.
Survey results were obtained in person and through a
secure online portal.8568 responses were received, with
a 92% completion rate. 43.01% of respondents identified
as male, 56.46% identified as female, and 0.53% declined
to identify their gender.
Of the students who
provided their ethnicity, the largest subgroup identified
with an ethnic group from Asia or South Asia,9 followed
by respondents who identified as Arab, Middle Eastern,
or North African.10 A minority of respondents making up
less than 1% of the survey sample identified as African
American, Ethiopian, Somalian, Black, Mexican, Latino,
Hispanic, White, Pacific Islander, or Mixed.
Nearly three-quarters of students in this sample were
pursuing their undergraduate degrees, while less than
1% were pursuing their Associates, Masters, or Doctor
of Philosophy degrees. Over 85% of all respondents
expected to graduate between 2020 and 2025, and 12%
graduated in 2019.
The survey sample demonstrated a strong trend toward
religious or cultural visibility on campus, whether through
religious attire, appearance, or identity-based group
affiliations. For example, an overwhelming 92.24% of
students reported wearing some form of religious or
cultural attire. 49.77% wore a hijab11 or other similar
religious head covering, 32.42% donned a beard, 5.71% wore a
thobe, 5.02% wore anabaya, and 3.65% wore a
kufi. Another 6.62% indicated they wore another type
of attire such as a rosary, headcap, Islamic jewelry,
niqab, clothing with Arabic calligraphy,
and some indicated they looked Muslim.
Additionally, 65.12% of students surveyed also
participated in some form of Muslim Student Association
or Union. An additional 0.09% of student respondents
were part of ethnic or national origin groups that may
be perceived as Muslim-presenting, such as Palestinian
advocacy groups, the Persian Student Association, or
the Pakistani Student Association.