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Challenging Islamophobia

Definition of Islamophobia

Islamophobia is fear or hatred of Islam and Muslims. It has existed for centuries, but has become more explicit, more extreme and more dangerous in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

This phenomenon promotes and perpetuates anti-Muslim stereotyping, discrimination, harassment, and even violence. It negatively impacts the participation of American Muslims in public life.

Features of Islamophobia

  • Muslim cultures and Islam are seen as monolithic and unchanging.
  • Muslim cultures are viewed as wholly different from other cultures.
  • Islam is perceived as inherently threatening.
  • Muslims are seen as using their faith mainly for political or military advantage.
  • Muslim criticisms of Western societies are rejected out of hand.
  • Fear of Islam is mixed with racist hostility to immigration.
  • Islamophobia is assumed to be natural and unproblematic.

Get Involved in Your Local Community

By being an active member in your community, you are more likely to earn the respect and support of your neighbors. Some incidents of Islamophobia can be contained or prevented by involving coalitions and rallying support from other communities. Giving accurate information on Islam is key to building relationships and mutual understanding.

  • Respond to acts of Islamophobia with a show of unity. Put differences aside and establish good community relationships so Islamophobia is rejected.
  • Organize events that provide a positive community outlet for concerns related to Islamophobia or other forms of intolerance. Form community groups that promote mutual understanding.
  • Leverage social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) to network and promote a positive and accurate image of Islam and Muslims.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbors of all faiths, races and ethnicities.
  • Join your children's school Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and other local organizations.
  • Donate books, DVDs and other materials about Islam to your local public and school libraries.
  • Make sure that you are registered to vote and vote in local, state and national elections.
  • Join or start a local CAIR chapter.
  • Attend school board meetings and city council meetings.
  • Put together a Ramadan or Hajj display at a local school or library.
  • Submit an opinion piece to your newspaper about an issue of local importance.
  • Invite local community leaders and the public to a mosque open house. (Contact CAIR for tips on the steps necessary to hold a mosque open house and to obtain "Welcome to Our Mosque" brochure text.)
  • Host civic events such as blood drives and health fairs at your local mosque.
  • Get yourself and your community center involved in local issues affecting all Americans.
  • Invite local and national officials to speak about community issues at your local mosques (members of Congress, police chief, mayor, city council members)

Steps to Challenging Islamophobia

When you encounter Islamophobia in your daily life, it is important to document it, report it and take action yourself. This guide is intended to show you ways to effectively challenge Islamophobia

  • in news and entertainment media
  • on the Internet
  • from public officials
  • in schools and universities
  • in the workplace

News and Entertainment Media

  1. Document
    1. Note the date and time, channel or program, and the person who made the Islamophobic comments. (Was it the host or a guest?)
    2. Try to obtain a podcast or recording of the incident.
    3. Note advertisers whose ads aired during the program.
    4. If you are tracking a pattern of Islamophobic discourse, begin recording the program every time it airs.
  2. Report to CAIR (To help us respond effectively, include as much of the above documentation as possible.
  3. Act
    1. Contact the editor, station manager, or other official from the media outlet to express your concerns. Always be polite, but clear and assertive. See "Writing a Letter to the Editor."
    2. Organize a coalition to join a community meeting with the outlet's management.
    3. Contact CAIR to obtain copies of "American Muslims: A Journalist's Guide to Understanding Islam and Muslims" and distribute to local media.
    4. If these meetings do not yield a satisfactory result, consider launching an advertiser campaign. Contact CAIR for more detailed guidance on this step.

Writing a Letter to the Editor

To increase your chances of publication, follow these guidelines:

  • React quickly to the news of the day, negative coverage or views you support. If possible, have the letter in the hands of an editor on the same day.
  • Check online letter submission guidelines for that particular publication.
  • Address the letter to the organization's opinion editor.
  • Keep your letter to no more than 150 to 250 words.
  • State the purpose of the letter in 25 words or less.
  • Pick one main topic and focus only on that one issue.
  • Be authoritative. If possible, speak on behalf of a local organization in which you are involved.
  • Give background information on the issue or misconception. Cite impartial and objective sources.
  • Offer a reasonable and fair solution to the problem you are addressing in your letter.
  • Be passionate or even controversial, but avoid rhetoric and defamation.

Make Your Voice Heard

You can use the information below to contact media outlets with feedback, either to compliment balanced programs or criticize unbalanced coverage.

Please, always be polite.

ABC News | 212-456-7583 |
CBS News | 212-975-3691 |
NBC News | 212-664-7403 |
CNN | 404-827-1511 |
Fox News | 212-301-3300 |
MSNBC | 201-583-5222 |
PBS | 202-806-3200 |
NPR | 202-414-2200 |
NY Times | 212-556-1234 |
USA Today | 703-276-3400 |
WS Journal | 212-416-2000 |
Washington Post | 202-334-6000 |
Newsweek | 212-445-4000 |
Time | 212-522-1212 |
Associated Press | 212-621-1600 |
Congress | 202-224-3121 | |
White House | 202-456-1414 |

The Internet

  1. Gauge the influence of the source. Many obscure individuals or organizations are desperate to get the publicity a controversy would bring them. We should try not to give them more publicity than they can get on their own. In many such cases, the best response is not to react at all.
  2. If the Islamophobic content comes from an influential source, document it.Report Islamophobic content from influential sources to CAIR.
    1. Save the URL (Internet address) and note the date and time you accessed the Islamophobic content.
    2. Take a screen shot/print screen image of the Islamophobic content.
    3. Include as much information about the author and source as possible.
    4. Note the Internet service provider or website host.
  3. Leverage social media – Use your talent to start a blog or post on Facebook and Twitter to increase knowledge and familiarity with Islam and Muslims. Produce short educational videos and post them on YouTube. Responding to insulting chain e-mails or online comments with accurate and balanced information about Islam can help stop the cycle of misinformation.

Public Figures

  1. DocumentReport Islamophobic incidents or comments to CAIR.
    1. If you learn of Islamophobic comments made by a public official (elected or appointed official, candidate, school official, etc.), document the source, date and any other pertinent information.
    2. If you hear Islamophobic comments from a public figures that are not recorded, write them down as soon as you can and ask others who may have heard them to write what they heard, or at least to act as witnesses to the comments.
    3. If allowed by law, record events such as town hall meetings or other public gatherings you attend.
  2. Organize a local letter-writing or call-in campaign to express community concerns to the person responsible for the Islamophobic statements. Submitting letters for publication in a local newspaper can help make your position known to a broader audience.
  3. Get involved. Consider joining or forming community coalitions to meet with your local, state and federal elected officials. While meetings may be a good response to Islamophobic comments by public officials, it is more effective to establish good relationships prior to an incident. If an elected official knows local Muslims, and has heard their concerns and felt their support, he or she is more likely to stand up for the Muslim community when another public figure makes a bigoted or ill-informed comment.
  4. Sponsor copies of the Quran to be sent to local public officials and opinion leaders. Visit:

Arranging to Meet Elected Officials

Know Who Represents You

To find out who represents you in the U.S. Congress and how to contact them, call the Capitol Hill Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 (have your zip code ready).

Send a Written Request for a Meeting

Include the following information: the topic you wish to discuss at the meeting; names of those who will attend (if possible limit your group to no more than five) when you would like to meet; and your contact information. Include your address so they can verify that you are a constituent. Members are generally in their districts on weekends and during congressional recess periods. Members are generally in Washington, D.C., on weekdays.

  • Send the request to the congressperson's scheduler by fax and e-mail.
  • Wait two business days and then call the scheduler to confirm that your request was received.
  • Be patient and flexible. It may take several calls to get a firm meeting time.
  • Call the day before your appointment to reconfirm.

If you need more help or advice, call CAIR and talk to someone in our Government Relations Department.

Schools, Colleges, and Universities

  1. Recognize the difference between Islamophobia and incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination or harassment. An act of discrimination is directed specifically at an individual or group of individuals. Islamophobia is directed at Islam or Muslims in general, or a whole Muslim community.
  2. If you or someone you know is targeted because of religion, report it to CAIR. See CAIR's Know Your Rights and Responsibilities Pocket Guide for more information about your rights and how to protect them.
  3. Document incidents of Islamophobia, false or misleading statements in textbooks, anti-Islam comments by a teacher or professor, or defamatory articles published in a school newspaper.
  4. If comments are verbal, write them down as soon as possible and ask others to verify their accuracy and act as witnesses. If the Islamophobic material is in physical form, get a copy or take a photo and note as many details as possible, such as date, source and location.
  5. Report the incident to CAIR.
  6. Report the incident to school administrators. If school administrators are the source of the Islamophobia, contact CAIR for advice.
  7. Arrange meetings with teachers or school administrators to address the issue.

In the Workplace

  1. Recognize the difference between Islamophobia and incidents of anti-Muslim discrimination or harassment. An act of discrimination is directed specifically at an individual or a group of individuals. An incident of Islamophobia is directed at Islam or Muslims in general, or at a whole Muslim community. If you or someone you know is targeted because of religion or ethnicity, report it to CAIR. See CAIR's Know Your Rights and Responsibilities Pocket Guide for more information about your rights and how to protect them.
  2. Document incidents of Islamophobia, such as supervisors forwarding Islamophobic e-mails, Islamophobic "jokes" posted on bulletin boards or Islamophobic remarks made during company training sessions.
  3. If the incidents are serious or form a pattern, report them to a supervisor or human resources officer.
  4. Report the incident to CAIR.

What is CAIR?

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a nonprofit, grassroots membership organization.

CAIR's mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

Become a Part of CAIR's Network

  • Join our e-mail list to receive updates on issues impacting Muslims in America and around the world. Go to to sign up.
  • Become a fan of CAIR on Facebook.

How Can I Help?

  1. Become a CAIR member or renew your membership. Membership is just $30 per year and is open to individuals and organizations.
  2. Help us serve you. Monthly automatic donations, even $5 a month, help the most.
  3. Take action. Use these tools and your own common sense to challenge Islamophobia. Your activism strengthens our community. Respond to CAIR's action alerts, volunteer at your local CAIR office or help establish a local chapter of CAIR.

Islamophobia can be stopped.

It takes people like you to take action and make a difference.Be an agent of change.

CAIR-GA offers a Challenging Islamophobia pocket guide to help combat the critical issues facing Minnesota Muslims. The guide provides examples of how to get involved within your community and steps to challenging Islamophobia. CAIR-GA also provides a training to help walk you through these steps.

If you are interested in hosting a training in your community or ordering Challenging Islamophobia pocket guides, please contact CAIR-GA today at 404-419-6390 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Know Your Rights

Know Your Rights
American Muslim Civic


"Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim"



Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee on the basis of religion, race, or national origin.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act guarantees your right to:

  1. Reasonable religious accommodation. The failure of an employer to reasonably accommodate your religious practices may constitute employment discrimination. 'Religious practices' include wearing a beard, prayer breaks, hijab and going to Jummah (Friday) prayers.
  2. Fairness in hiring, firing, and promotions. Your employer is prohibited from considering religion when making decisions affecting your employment status.
  3. A non-hostile work environment.Your employer must ensure that you are not subjected to anti-Muslim insults, harassment or unwelcome and excessive proselytizing.
  4. Complain about discrimination without fear of retaliation. Federal law guarantees your right to report an act of alleged employment discrimination. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for your complaint.


  1. Remain calm and polite.
  2. Inform the offending party that you believe his/her actions are discriminatory.
  3. Report the discriminatory action in writing to company management.
  4. Begin documenting the discrimination by saving memos, keeping a detailed journal, noting the presence of witnesses and making written complaints. Make sure to keep copies of all materials. It is important to keep a "paper trail" of evidence.
  5. Call the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at 800-669-4000 or local county or state civil rights agencies to educate yourself about legal options.
  6. Contact a local attorney who is licensed to practice in your state to discuss your case.
  7. DO NOT sign any documents or resign without an attorney's advice.
  8. Ask to be transferred to another department or job site.
  9. Ask for mediation.
  10. Contact CAIR to file a report.
  11. Consider looking for a new job.


  1. You have the right to inform others about your religion. You have the right to pass out literature or speak to others about Islam, as long as it is not done in a disruptive manner.
  2. You have the right to wear religious clothing. You also have the right to wear clothing with a religious message, as long as other clothes with similar messages are allowed.
  3. You have the right to organize student-led prayer on campus, as long as the service is not disruptive to the function of the school.
  4. You may have the right to attend Friday prayer. The Supreme Court has upheld the right of states to allow students "release time" to attend religious classes or services.
  5. You have the right to be excused from school for religious holidays. You should be sure to inform the school that you will be absent in advance.
  6. You have the right to be excused from class discussions or activities that you find religiously objectionable. If you have any questions, please contact CAIR.
  7. You have the right to form an extracurricular Muslim student group.


Know Your Rights as an Airline Passenger1


  1. American Muslims strongly support law enforcement and the protection of our national security. As Americans, we also value the civil rights of all Americans. All Americans have the constitutional right of due process and to be politically active.
  2. If you know of any criminal activity taking place in your community, it is both your religious and civic duty to immediately report such activity to local and federal law enforcement agencies.
  3. If you are visited by federal law enforcement agencies, remember:
  4. You should have a lawyer present when speaking with federal law enforcement agencies. Under the law, you have the legal right to have a lawyer present when speaking with federal law enforcement agencies. This is true even if you are not a citizen. This is your legal right. Refusing to answer questions cannot be held against you and does not imply that you have something to hide.
  5. You do not have to permit them to enter your home or office if they do not have a warrant. Under U.S. law, law enforcement agents must possess a search warrant in order to enter your house. If they say they have a warrant, kindly demand to see it before allowing them to enter. The warrant will specify exactly what can be searched and if they have a warrant, be courteous and polite and remember that you are under no obligation to answer questions without a lawyer present.
  6. You should never lie or provide false information to any law enforcement agencies. Lying to law enforcement agents is a federal crime and should never be done under any circumstance.


  1. If you believe that you have been the victim of a hate crime, you should:
  2. Report the crime to your local police station immediately. Ask that the incident be treated as a hate crime. Follow up with investigators.
  3. Report the crime to CAIR-GA. You can do this by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (612) 206-3360. Inform CAIR-GA even if you believe it is a 'small' incident.
  4. Document the incident. Write down exactly what was said and/or done by the offender (including dates, times and places). Save all of the evidence and try to take photographs.
  5. Act quickly. Each incident must be dealt with right away, not when it is convenient.
  6. Decide on the appropriate action to be taken. Consider issuing a statement from community leaders, holding a news conference, organizing a peaceful protest, meeting with local officials or starting a letter writing campaign.
  7. Mobilize community support. Make sure that the local mosque or prominent American Muslim organizations are aware of your situation.
  8. Stay on top of the situation. Make sure you follow up with police, local media and community leaders to make sure that your case is receiving the attention that it deserves.
  9. Announce results. When the incident is resolved, make an announcement to the same people and organizations originally contacted.


Report an incident