Employment Discrimination against American Muslims: Myths and Realities

A groundbreaking study published late last week investigates the skyrocketing trend of employment discrimination claims filed by members of the American Muslim community and finds that repeated assertions of a post-9/11 backlash against Muslims in the workplace are pure fiction. The report by Jeffrey Breinholt of the International Assessment and Strategy Center, "Muslim Employment Discrimination: A Legal Examination", goes so far as to conclude that these discrimination claims have correlated closely with the rise of Islamic terrorism directed at the US.

Breinholt examined the judicial opinions of all 329 federal and state cases involving Muslim employees claiming discrimination in the workplace, and found that
"Muslim employees have succeeded in showing redressable religious employment discrimination in a total of only 12 cases in American legal history" (emphasis in the original).
The vast majority of the remaining cases (196) were dismissed for lacking any legal merit.

Despite the purely empirical nature of Breinholt's findings, they are sure to be assailed by the Muslim lobby groups that regularly make extravagant claims about Muslims being harassed and subject to constant discrimination in the workplace. Chief among these groups is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which in its 2007 Civil Rights Report claimed 210 incidents in 2006 alone (p. 17), down from the staggering 277 employment discrimination cases CAIR claimed in its previous year's report for 2005 (p. 15).

One important element examined in the study is the correlation between the rise of the number of claims of employment discrimination by Muslims and the Islamic dramatic increase in terrorism around the world and attacks against the US. Breinholt discusses the possible explanations:
Why would Islamic terrorist attacks result in more claims of employment discrimination against Muslims? There are a number of possible theories, which neatly fall along a continuum of two diametrically opposed views.

One on end is what I will refer to as the "Innocent Muslim Bystander" theory: Islamic terrorist attacks against the U.S. increase discrimination against innocent Muslim employees here, who are distrusted in the workplace and wrongly punished for of the actions of a few radicals who claim to act in the name of their religion. This theory is the narrative advanced by such groups as the Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Muslim civil rights organization.

On the other end of the continuum is what I will call the "Political Islam" theory, which is the narrative pushed by a number of prominent commentators: Muslims in the U.S. saw the steady increase in attacks that culminated in 9/11 as an opportunity to press their advantage and achieve greater Islamicization of American workplaces, even while disavowing violent jihad, and their employment discrimination push is one aspect of such effort. I chose the name "Political Islam" because it reflects the use of discrimination laws as part of power politics.
If the "Innocent Muslim Bystander" theory is correct, there would need to be an increase in the number of judicial decisions favoring Muslims claiming religious employment discrimination. But the study shows that has not occurred. In fact, rulings in favor of Muslims have not increased since 9/11, though the number of cases dismissed on merit has increased -- dramatically. Overall, religious discrimination cases are becoming less successful, prompting Breinholt to conclude:

...I do believe that the growth of Muslim discrimination claims without the corresponding increased rate of success evidences Muslims claiming victim status at an alarming rate. Their sense of indignation may have increased after 9/11. I think the numbers buttress the views of people arguing that Muslim-American civil rights organizations like CAIR should be more aggressively questioned and scrutinized about their methods and goals. The same goes for their lawyers....
One independent observation that can be made from the data contained in Breinholt's report is that the year in which cases reported began to rapidly climb was the same year in which CAIR was founded - 1994.

From that time forward, the number of cases decided each year where Muslims have claimed employment discrimination has increased exponentially. In 2006, 57 cases were decided with 36 being dismissed on the merits. In only one case were the claims of discrimination upheld. The study notes that 2007 is on track to be another record-setting year in that regard, as 42 cases have already been decided with another four months left to go before the end of the year. For perspective, the study also observes that the number of decisions being currently being issued in this type of case each month is approximately the same number decided each decade before the 1990s.

This study by Breinholt gives empirical evidence to help deflate the seemingly endless claims of rampant and pervasive Islamophobia in the American workplace made by CAIR and the other groups that are part of the Islamist grievance industry. When their claims are put to the test by courts of law, the vast majority are found wanting. Readers might also consult my article that found serious problems with an academic study attempting to link the rise in Muslim hate crime claims with an alleged drop in Muslim wages post 9/11.

This study does nothing to diminish or dismiss the seriousness of real cases where Muslims have actually been the victims of religious discrimination. The data very well might indicate that the rise in claims without merit may in fact make it harder for real Muslims victims to successfully press their claims in the courts. If future studies could confirm such a finding, it would raise serious questions about the true beneficiaries of CAIR's constant grievance-mongering.

Patrick Poole is an occasional contributor to American Thinker. He is the Executive Director of Central Ohioans Against Terrorism   and he maintains a blog, Existential Space.