Antisemitism and Islamophobia in the United States

In the USA recently, attempts to address antisemitism are often linked with those to address Islamophobia. Examples include those of the White House, Harvard, and Columbia University, to name but a few. The question is, why do the two appear together, and why these two and not hate against other religious groups?

To be sure, both antisemitism and islamophobia are problems in the United States (and obviously elsewhere, as I’ve written about in the past). But why the sudden need to mention both whenever antisemitism is mentioned (and not, for example, vice versa or other religious groups)? Is Islamophobia such a significant issue compared to antisemitism?

The FBI’s Crime Data Explorer provides an analysis of reported hate crimes by who they were directed at. Here’s a snapshot of the latest data, that of 2022.

FBI hate crime statistics by the group they were perpetrated against, 2022 data.

There were 1124 anti-Jewish (antisemitic) crimes, the second largest category after anti-Black hate crimes. Anti-Islamic (Islamophobic) crimes are in 15th place with 158 crimes. Pretty bad, but only one seventh of the number of antisemitic crimes. If one adds anti-Catholic, anti-Protestant and other anti-Christian crimes we find that there were 375 such crimes, more than Islamophobic crimes, but POTUS didn’t mention anti-Christian hate in their publication.

Of course, both Islam and Judaism are minority religions in the USA, so perhaps it isn’t fair to compare them to Christianity. According to Wikipedia there are 7.15 million Jews and 3.45 million Muslims in the USA. If we normalize the data per-capita, there are still 3.5 times more antisemitic crimes than Islamophobic crimes reported to the FBI. However, on a per-capita basis, anti-Sikh crimes (currently ranked 14th in the number of instances) are much worse than both. Note, however, that there are wildly different estimates for the number of people according to religious affiliations: The US Religion Census claims 4.45 million adherent Muslims and 2.07 million adherent Jews. If we use these estimates there are 15 times more crimes against Jews than against Muslims on a per-capita basis!

Unfortunately, the FBI’s data doesn’t cover 2023. Some organizations such as the Anti-Defamation Legue have reported a 5-fold increase in antisemitic crimes (see CNNs coverage, and when you do, look for the graphs worthy of “How to lie with statistics”). So what do Google searches tell us?

Looking at searches for the topic of antisemitism and Islamophobia since August 2023, we see a huge jump in the former, whereas the latter is almost at zero. The jump begins almost immediately after Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7th.

Searches for the topics “Antisemitism” and “Islamophobia” in the USA for the 6 months starting August 7th, 2023

However, we don’t know how Google groups queries into topics. Therefore, I also looked at queries which begin with “Why are Jews” and “Why are Muslims” which, in the past at least, were associated with hate. Here the rise in Islamophobia is greater than we saw in the previous graph, but it’s still small. The total volume (as measured by the area under the graph) of antisemitic searches is 2.9 times that of Islamophobic crimes. Taking into account per-capita, that is still 1.4 times greater (using Wikipedia’s population estimates) or 6.3 times greater (using the Religion Census estimates).

Perhaps the only optimistic observation from this graph is that the jump was related to Hamas’ October 7th attack and both Islamophobia and antisemitism are going down fairly quickly.

Searches for the queries beginning “why are Jews” and “why are Muslims” in the USA for the 6 months starting August 7th, 2023

Going back to my original question, why do antisemitism and Islamophobia appear together, and why these two? It seems I don’t have good data to answer the question.