New Report on Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Jewish & Sikh New Yorkers' Experiences of Bias, Harassment, Discrimination & Acts of Hate
June 29, 2018
The NYC Commission on Human Rights issued a new report highlighting Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Jewish and Sikh (MASAJS) New Yorkers' experiences of bias harassment, discrimination, and acts of hate between July 2016 and late 2017, leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election. The report, which summarizes survey responses from over 3,100 MASAJS individuals across all five boroughs, found high rates of bias, discrimination, and acts of hate against these communities, the overwhelming majority of whom did not report the incidents.
“No one in New York City has permission to discriminate against or harass others because of who they are, where they pray, or what country they come from,” said Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights, Carmelyn P. Malalis. “The NYC Commission on Human Rights takes bias-motivated incidents very seriously and we are dedicated to combating them. We are also working hard to understand how the City can be a better resource to Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Jewish and Sikh New Yorkers who are far too often the targets of discrimination and harassment. The data from this survey is an invaluable tool that will help the Commission and other stakeholders better address and prevent these incidents and ensure that people know where to go to get help. We look forward to working with community- and faith-based organizations to implement these action steps, which will help create a better and safer New York City for us all.”
“No one should have to suffer harassment or discrimination. Our office works with the NYC Commission on Human Rights every day so that more New Yorkers, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion, can confidentially report harassment they face and receive justice,” said Bitta Mostofi, Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. “The Commission's new report provides more evidence that harassers continue to offend in this toxic political climate, particularly for immigrant communities. We will redouble our efforts with our sister agencies and community partners so that all New Yorkers know that the City has their back.”
“Discrimination, bias, harassment, and hate crimes have no place in New York City. The de Blasio administration is committed to protect and help communities all around the city, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion or immigration status,” said Commissioner of New York City's Community Affairs Unit, Marco A. Carrión. “The staff at the Community Affairs Unit will continue connecting diverse communities to city agencies to combat discrimination and other pressing issues affecting those communities citywide.”
The Commission launched the survey in 2017 amid heightened reports of bias-motived incidents targeting MASAJS communities to better understand the scope and frequency of such incidents, prevent future acts of bias, increase reporting to the Commission, and identify how the Commission and City can better serve these communities. Key recommendations include a community-based referral network, new bystander intervention and cultural competency trainings for City outreach employees, directing mental health services through ThriveNYC to affected communities, and increased community outreach and legal resources to ensure MASAJS New Yorkers understand their rights. As part of the implementation of some of the report recommendations, the Commission is announcing today a partnership with seven community partners, including Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Sauti Yetu Center, the Sikh Coalition, the New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Arab American Association of NY, the Arab American Family Support Center, and Chhaya CDC, to identify next steps in piloting the community-based referral network.
The Commission initiated the survey project following year-long conversations and roundtables with community organizations about the targeting of their communities and as a result of increased reports to the Commission from MASAJS community groups and bias incidents reported in the media, including the murder of an imam in Queens, an increase in anti-Semitic graffiti and harassment citywide, and multiple physical assaults against Sikhs, Muslims, and other New Yorkers in religious clothing. Over the last two years, the Commission increased investigations into claims of discrimination and harassment based on religion, national origin, race, and immigration status by nearly 30 percent, but as the survey confirmed, these incidents are still vastly underreported.
The survey was designed and implemented following 15 focus groups and input from over 150 community groups, faith leaders, City agencies, and elected officials and conducted in nine languages (English, French, Bengali, Punjabi, Arabic, Russian, Hindi, Urdu, and Yiddish) over a three-month period (October – December 2017) in all five boroughs.
The findings in this report are intended to guide the Commission, City agencies, community- and faith-based organizations, policy makers, elected officials, and city residents to better address and prevent bias harassment, discrimination, and acts of hate impacting MASAJS communities and improve reporting so victims can get the justice they deserve. Recommendations include:
- The creation of a Commission-led pilot referral network of community- and faith-based organizations to include Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Sauti Yetu Center for African Women, the Sikh Coalition, the New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Arab American Association of NY and the Arab American Family Support Center. Commission staff will work with organizations to educate individuals about their rights through literature distribution, explain how to file a complaint at the Commission, and will refer complaints to the Commission's Infoline at 718-722-3131.
- Plan and develop a bystander intervention training for City employees who work directly with the public on how to de-escalate bias incidents and what resources to offer those who have been involved in such incidents. The Commission is working with the Arab American Association of NY to learn about its experience building a bystander intervention training.
- Commission-run training for City outreach staff on issues confronting MASAJS communities, protections available under the City Human Rights Law, and resources available at the Commission to further build trust with affected communities and ensure they understand their rights.
- Direct mental health resources through ThriveNYC to identify ways to support MASAJS New Yorkers dealing with the impacts of the bias incidents.
- Focus outreach and legal resources on impacted communities in order to educate New Yorkers about their rights, and encourage vulnerable communities to report incidents to the Commission.
Today's report found alarming levels of bias harassment, discrimination, and physical assaults against MASAJS communities leading up to and following the 2016 presidential election with low levels of reporting.
- Nearly two in five (38.7 percent) survey respondents reported experiencing verbal harassment, one in ten (8.8 percent) reported being the victim of physical assault, and nearly one in six (16.6 percent) said they experienced some form of racial, religious, or ethnic discrimination-related problem in their employment in either a current job or while seeking a job.
- One in four (27 percent) Muslim Arab women who wear a hijab reported being intentionally pushed or shoved on a subway platform.
- Sikh New Yorkers under the age of 35 have nearly twice the chance of experiencing verbal harassment than other survey respondents.
- 80 percent of Jewish survey respondents said they were “very” or “somewhat” bothered by anti-Semitic vandalism or property damage.
- One in five (19 percent) South Asian survey respondents said they had experienced employment discrimination.
- Overall, nearly 71 percent of survey respondents said they did not report bias incidents to a community-based organization, a faith-based organization, the Commission, or the NYPD, citing concerns their reports would not being taken seriously, fear of retaliation, and because previous reporting did not result in action.
The NYC Commission on Human Rights is the City agency tasked with fighting discrimination and harassment by enforcing the NYC Human Rights Law, one of the strongest anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws in the nation.
If you believe you are the victim of discrimination or harassment under the NYC Human Rights Law, call the Commission's Infoline at 718-722-3131. Reports may also be filed anonymously and reported on the Commission's website.
"We applaud the Commission's work to shed light on the rampant rise of discrimination and acts of hate against New Yorkers, and the dire need to report such behavior in Trump's America,” said Commissioner and Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, Steven Choi. “In our New York, people of all races, religions, and nationalities deserve the utmost respect and with the Commission's recommendations we will be one step closer to enforcing those values.”
“As a Jewish New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn, I know firsthand that anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and bias still unfortunately exist in our great city,” said Commissioner and board member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Jonathan Greenspun. “Through its report, the NYC Commission on Human Rights is calling upon all of us to live up to the promise that discrimination is not welcome here. This report is an invaluable tool for the Commission and community groups to focus outreach to vulnerable communities that are impacted by bias and hate and help us live in safer, hate-free New York.”
“It is very important that we, New Yorkers, stand together as one to prevent discrimination, bias harassment, and any violent act against any human being based on their race, physical appearance, or religious beliefs,” said Commissioner and former president of the Sikh Cultural Society, Gurdev Singh Kang. “During these tough times, we must stand united and report such incidents without any hesitation or any fear. By working together, we will promote peace and unity within the community.”
“I am so proud of the NYC Commission on Human Rights taking a strong and unequivocal stand denouncing the rise in hate in our city and in our country and actually outlining effective steps to respond,” said Commissioner and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. “Thank you Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis and her whole staff team.”
“Arab-American Family Support Center remains a steadfast active ally of Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Jewish and Sikh communities,” said Rawaa Nancy Albilal, President and CEO of the Arab-American Family Support Center. “As discrimination increases in visibility, the Arab-American Family Support Center will continue to deepen our commitment to MASAJS communities through our diverse trauma informed services.”
“CAIR-NY is proud to partner with the City Commission on Human Right for this ground-breaking study of harassment, discrimination, and hate crimes in New York City,” said CAIR-NY Legal Director, Albert Fox Cahn. “By collaborating and leveraging the city's resources, we were able to reach many New Yorkers whose voices were never heard before. This data paints a stark picture…the reality of anti-Muslim bias under President Trump. Not only have incidents jumped significantly (corroborating CAIR-NY's previous reports), but the majority of victims still do not report harassment, discrimination, and hate crimes. This data shows that much work remains to be done to make sure every victim in our city is able to be heard.”
“Data on bias, bigotry and discriminatory backlash remains critical to the work we do to better combat and prevent hate in America,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director, Amrith Kaur. “As New York City deals with rising rates of bias-related crimes, we must work closely with the City to better protect Sikhs and other religious minorities.”
The Commission's important report underlines once again that as long-targeted communities become more visible, their rights are threatened and their differences criminalized via federal policy to pit communities against each other along religious, cultural and racial lines,” said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director for the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).
“As much as we all like to think of New York City as a liberal enclave, the fact remains that our city is not immune to hate crimes, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, or xenophobia,” said Audrey Sasson, Executive Director of Jews For Racial and Economic Justice. “Thanks to the NYC Commission on Human Rights, we now have the data to prove it. It's time to mobilize our communities to continue protecting and defending each other, and to create more Hate Free Zones where all people — Muslim, Arab, South Asian, Jewish, Sikh — can feel safe. As Jews, we know that we have a personal stake in keeping our city safe for all oppressed peoples. We will always have each other's backs no matter what.”