Reported hate crimes in the United States fell by 6 percent in 2011 from the previous year, newly released FBI statistics show.
Attacks based on a person's religion fell 3.4 percent from 2010 levels, including a 13 percent drop in crimes targeting Jews. Anti-Muslim crimes dropped less than 1 percent. Even with that improvement, Jews still attract the lion's share – 62 percent – of crimes targeting religious groups.
Hate crimes can include acts of violence like assault, rape and murder in addition to property crimes like vandalism. In many cases, then, the report reflects a status quo when it comes to crime motivated by bigotry, with some slight improvements.
The Southern Poverty Law Center's Mark Potok uses the same data to argue anti-Muslim crimes are skyrocketing. In an article republished by Salon, Potok first describes the data as "notoriously understated." The 2011 figures maintained a spike in anti-Muslim crimes reflected in the 2010 report, Potok writes. He blames this on "continued high levels of anti-Muslim propaganda" in the United States.
Even though immigration reform remained a hot topic in 2011, Potok even speculates that the anti-Muslim sentiment contributed to a dramatic drop in crimes targeting Latinos "as negative attention focused on Muslims."
But a review of FBI data shows a consistency in who is targeted. In 2006, Jews were targeted in 64 percent of religiously-motivated hate crimes, while Muslims were victims in 12 percent of the cases.
That's within a percentage point for both minority groups in the 2011 report. The "Islam-bashing propaganda" Potok blames for last year's increase, in the form of anti-Shariah and anti-mosque campaigns, didn't exist in 2006. Yet the data then mirrors the latest FBI report.
There are fluctuations from year to year, but despite the spin, nothing in the annual reports reflects a dramatic change in which group is targeted.