Friday, November 23, 2007

More on hate crime statistics

Arash Kamangir has some good questions on his blog about the latest FBI statistics. He pointed out that to make a true comparison between anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hate crimes, we would have to scale the results by population.

Wikipedia provides a useful survey of population estimates for American Jews, ranging from about 6.4 to 7.4 million according to the latest surveys.

It is harder to figure out how many American Muslims there are. One estimate, which I found on the "Islam 101" website estimates that as of 1991 there were between 5 and 8 million Muslims in the U.S.

The Religious Tolerance website provides estimates from several surveys. The numbers range from about 1.6 million to 12 million. The first four estimates, which are based on survey research, range up to a high of 2 million - as of 2000/2001.

An interesting article by Jane I. Smith on the U.S. State Department website gives estimates of from 2 million to 7 million. Smith is a well-respected scholar of Islamic studies who teaches at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Connecticut. She remarks:

It is very difficult to estimate the precise number of Muslims currently living in the United States. Muslims tend to put the number somewhat higher than non-Muslim scholars and demographers; the estimated figures range widely - from around two million in one study to as many as seven million. There are several reasons for the varying estimates. First, because the U.S. Constitution mandates a separation of church and state that is reflected in American law, U.S. Census Bureau survey forms do not ask recipients about their religion. Neither does the U.S. Immigration Service collect information on the religion of immigrants. Many mosques in the United States do not have formal membership policies, and they seldom keep accurate attendance figures. In the words of University of Chicago religion scholar Martin Marty, "Counting noses has come to depend on two sources. One source is poll-takers calling during the dinner hour to ask, `What is your religious preference?' The other source is religious leaders, on both the local and the national scene. People who respond to telephone interviewers may have all kinds of motives for declaring themselves as part of this or that group, or no group at all. And people who report on the size of their congregations, denominations, and cohorts also have a variety of motives." The end result is that there is no official count of Muslims in the United States nor is there a number that is commonly accepted by all who have studied the question.

When I originally wrote, I had the higher estimates of Muslim population in the U.S. in mind - about 6 million in fact - so I thought that the comparative figures for Jews and Muslims victimized by hate crimes were roughly proportional by population, thus meaning that Jews were victimized more by hate crimes than Muslims. However, if we compare the lower estimates of Jewish population (6.4 million) with the lower estimate of Muslim population (2 million), then we get a different picture, as Arash points out.

And the hate crime statistics are not the only way to measure prejudice. Another way is to measure whether people would vote for a person of a particular religion. In a 2006 poll done by Rasmussen Reports, 61% of likely voters said that they would not vote for a Muslim candidate. 43% said that they would not vote for a Mormon candidate. 60% said they would not vote for an atheist. Unfortunately, this poll didn't ask about Jewish candidates.

The latest ADL poll on anti-semitic attitudes shows that 15% of the American population holds strongly anti-semitic beliefs. A 1999 Gallup poll reported that only 6% would refuse to vote for a Jewish candidate for President.

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