There is a substantial public record that allows for a dispassionate review of the various issues under consideration. In the case of inter-religious hatred, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tracks and reports on numerous categories of “hate crimes.” In the cases of the Morton Grove and Lombard incidents, there was substantial coverage by area newspapers.
If it were the case that the United States is saturated by inter-religious hatred, then a presumption of animosity as the motivation for specific incidents could be credible, at least as a starting point for investigation. This question led me into research on official hate crime statistics. My goal was to determine if a presumption of inter-religious animosity in the United States is supported by actual data.
FBI hate crime data is organized into two primary types, crimes against persons and property. Within each of these two types, numerous crime categories are identified and tracked. For example, hate crimes against persons range from murder to assault to intimidation (among others). Hate crimes against property range from arson to theft to vandalism (among others). Thus, hate crime data is available for numerous types and categories of offense. The FBI reports the total number of all types of hate crimes against persons and property. I have utilized these totals for this discussion.
A natural question when considering information of this type is “Compared to what?” That is, hate crime totals have intrinsic value, but in order to better understand the meaning, some sort of comparison is of great help. In the best of worlds I could compare hate crime rates against Muslims in the United States with the same for other countries. For example, hate crime rates against Muslims in the United compared to hate crime rates against Christians in Iraq, Egypt, Indonesia, and other Muslim majority countries. It would also be of great interest to compare with hate crime rates against Muslims in India, France, the United Kingdom, etc.
Unfortunately, there is great variability among countries in their definitions, tracking and public reporting of hate crimes. Thus, it is very difficult to obtain, let alone reasonably compare data from one country to another. I therefore decided that the best comparison is between the two religious groups in the United States who have the highest profile with regard to hate crimes, those being Muslim and Jewish.
However, direct use of hate crime totals between two groups can be misleading. For example, let’s assume the existence of two groups, A and B, with 100 and 10 members, respectively. If, in a given year, four hate crimes are committed against Group A and two against B, then it appears that Group A is worse off by a factor of two. However, if we calculate the hate crime rate as a percentage of the group’s size, we find that while 4% of Group A’s members suffered a hate crime, 20% of Group B’s members suffered the same crime. Thus, in terms of crime rate, Group B is five times more likely to suffer a hate crime than is Group A.
Therefore, it would not be fair to directly compare the total number of hate crimes between the Muslim and Jewish communities. Rather, the hate crime rate must be the metric of comparison. The following Muslim and Jewish population data was used to convert hate crime totals into hate crime rates. Note that in the year 2000 the Jewish population was almost 3.6 times the size of the Muslim population. By 2013 this ratio had decreased to 2.3. Thus, in 2013, if the total number of hate crimes against Jews were 2.3 times the number against Muslims, the hate crime rate between these two religious groups would be identical.