Stand with Muslims as they fight against bigotry


Carolyn at the impromptu Muslim Ban protest march on January 29, 2017

The Supreme Court hears arguments on the Muslim Ban tomorrow.  I’ll be in the courtroom, and with hundreds of civil rights supporters at the rally on the courthouse steps.  Join me.  As the Fourth Circuit has declared, the Muslim Ban violates the Establishment Clause and is “unconstitutionally tainted with animus towards Islam.”

Everytime I talk to Muslim friends, colleagues, and even taxi drivers, I hear the same themes over and over again – children bullied as “terrorists” at school, women harangued for wearing headscarfs (with aggressors sometimes forcibly yanking religious headcoverings off), graffiti and vandalism to businesses, threats and firebombs at mosques.



Yesterday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations released “Targeted,” its annual civil rights report, assigning hard numbers on how the Muslim Ban has harmed the American Muslim community.  CAIR reported 300 hate crimes against Muslims in 2017 – a 15% increase from its 2016 data.  Those 300 hate crimes reflect a more than 500% increase in reported anti-Muslim hate crimes since CAIR began fulsome tracking in 2014.  Most scary to me is the sheer number of violent and threatening incidents surrounding American mosques — 144 in the last year.



Total Anti-Mosque Incidents

FBI hate crime data concurs.  Anti-Jewish and Anti-Muslim sentiment are by far the largest categories of religiously-motivated hate crimes, accounting for 80% of the total religiously-motivated hate crimes every year. Since the 2015 beginning of the presidential election cycle, Anti-Jewish and Anti-Muslim hate crimes have dramatically spiked.  (2017 FBI data is not yet available, so I included projections based on the 15% increase reported by CAIR and the 60% increase reported by the Anti-Defamation League.)

hatecrimes chart

In particular, the Muslim Ban has wreaked havoc on families because of their faith.  CAIR documented 464 incidents of bias related to the Muslim Ban.  In “Total and Complete Shutdown,” a report on the Muslim Ban released last week, Muslim Advocates reports that U.S. admissions of Muslim refugees dropped by 94% during the first year of the Trump Administration.  Non-immigrant visas for Muslim and Arab countries have dropped by 20-30%, and visas for “Muslim Ban” designated countries have plummeted by 55%.


The perpetuation of hatred and fear against religious minorities should be loathsome to all Mormons, once a highly persecuted minority religion ourselves.  Indeed, I am proud of the way my community has stood up for our religious neighbors.

  • The Bellevue, Washington mosque shares a parking lot with a Mormon chapel – and has been the target of arson twice in the last year. The Mormon chapel responded by dedicating a portion of the building as a prayer space for their neighbors.
  • Mormons in Salt Lake City gathered at the airport last June, to welcome local Iman Yussuf Abdi home, after the U.S. Government had labeled him a terrorist and denied him boarding on a flight home from Kenya.
  • Utah was the only red state to publicly support Syrian Refugees in 2015.
  • Utah is the only state where politicians have not trashed Islam.
  • The Relief Society has led mass Mormon support for refugee welfare, with one group in Utah responding to the call by forming the Refugee Justice League.
  • Mormon communities around the country participate in interfaith coalitions with Muslims, and cook iftar (break the fast) dinners for their friends during Ramadan.
  • A group of scholars of Mormon History have filed an amicus brief in the Muslim Ban litigation, providing context between how this Administration’s efforts parallel rampant bigotry and phobia against Mormons (as well as Catholics and Muslims) in the 19th century.

In CAIR’s national press conference yesterday, a Muslim civil rights leader listed Mormons first in sincere gratitude to the minority religions which have stood with Muslims during this period of hate and fear.  Let’s keep it up.  Protecting religious freedom must mean lending our time, talents, resources, and vocal support to our persecuted religious friends.  So take concrete action: Invite your neighbors to share their stories and perspectives. Break bread with them. Schedule and attend interfaith events. Defend faiths on social media from horrific attacks.

Precisely because I am a Mormon with a deep knowledge of the evils of religious persecution, I started vocally supporting the rights of my Muslim friends to practice their faith free of harassment and fear on September 12, 2001. On that day, proposals were flying around the national media and my very red state to create national Muslim registries and ban Muslim immigration.  I could not let that stand. No extremists should be permitted to define the beautiful faith of a billion of God’s children.

It is the Muslim Ban which inspired me to become even more engaged in the cause of religious civil rights.  Three months ago I left my tech law firm job and joined the Council on American-Islamic Relations as a civil rights attorney.  I have loved every minute of engaging more deeply with passionate members of the peaceful, loving, and service-oriented faith that is Islam.

My prior vocal defense has now turned to legal defense in court.  In this and other aspects of my life, I have felt called by God to consecrate my skills and my talents towards being a voice for those who may be voiceless.

I hope all of you will feel the same inspiration.  Stand with me and my Muslim friends, tomorrow at the Supreme Court, and for years to come around the world.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Heaven knows we have our own issues, but our strong sense of empathy towards and support for Muslims and Jews is one of my very favorite things about the church. Thanks for this powerful post.

  2. Thanks for this post. I’ll return to it and read the various reports. The work you’re doing is vital. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Jack of Hearts says:

    That the title of this post makes me think of Jefferson’s line from Hamilton’s Cabinet Battle #2 (“Stand with our brothers as they fight against tyranny”) makes this post all the better. Thank you.


  5. Monica Jensen Call says:

    I was heartened to recently read that Utah is the only state in the country where Republican lawmakers haven’t trashed Islam and its adherents. My best friend and my husband’s former foreign exchange student sister are both Muslims. If you become acquainted with Muslims you quickly learn that we have a great deal in common with regard to our religious beliefs and that they hate ISIS and the idea of sharia law. Unfortunately many Americans will not make the effort to get to know someone outside of their faith group and often prefer to believe the stereotypes, especially the harmful and dangerous ones, that are used to describe “the other”. As Mormons we should be be all too aware that we are often “the other” and do all that we can to stand up for the religious freedoms of all of our brothers and sisters, especially those that are demonized for no good reason. We’ve been there ourselves.

  6. @Monica: I forgot that one even though I flagged it two weeks ago! I’m adding in a bullet.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Mainstream Mormons get very frustrated when outsiders seem incapable of distinguishing between us and, say, Warren Jeffs. So I think we’re more sensitive about variety in a religious tradition and how the majority has no control over or sympathy with monstrous actions on the extreme edges of the tradition.

  8. Rachel E O says:

    This is so awesome. Carolyn, you are so awesome. Thank you for your work in defense of our Muslim brothers and sisters. What an inspiring vocation. I’ll be there with you in spirit and cheering and praying for the right and the just.

  9. Papa johnson says:

    You know who they want to keep out don’t you? Those ones that want to walk into bars buses and theatres and blow them up

  10. @Papa Johnson: But the means adopted to try and accomplish that goal must be tailored to the actual threat that exists.

    And all the data that exists shows violence perpetuated by domestic actors is a far, far, far greater threat than that posed by immigrants and refugees. The CATO Institute wrote about this yesterday. (and often in the past).

  11. I dont think you should rely on data from CAIR. They are essentially a terror supporting front group for middle eastern terror groups. It taints the whole post.

  12. …Bbell, did you miss the part where I said I work for them?
    The Council on American-Islamic Relations is probably the leading civil rights organization for American Muslims, advancing a peaceful and unifying vision of Islam as well as support for all minorities and victims of injustice.

  13. Like I said. They are a terror front group. I am open to the idea that the Trump travel ban in unconstitutional. I stand by my CAIR comments.

  14. Rexicorn says:

    Bbell, do you have a source or something to back that up? I’ve honestly never heard that about CAIR. It sounds like an islamophobic rumor to me.

  15. Rexicorn — I hear it all the time. Mostly from the Breibarts and islamophobes of the world. But it’s certainly not true based on my experience, you know, working here. We like 99% of all Muslims, Muslim organizations, and Muslim religious scholars, condemn terrorism.

    For fun, here’s a slightly outdated list of positive quotes and awards for our civil rights work.

  16. The very fact that CAIR has hired an LDS attorney should shed serious doubt on any ridiculous claims of “terror front group.” Compare this to, say, ADF Legal, a Christian organization which purports to defend legal freedoms and yet refuses to hire Mormons.

  17. I have friends at ADF too! But, yeah, they’re definitely much stricter on their religious purity test.
    CAIR is overwhelmingly Muslim — maybe 90%? — but it has senior employees and board members who are Jewish, Mormon, Quaker, mainline Protestant…and I’m sure other faiths but I haven’t met them all yet.

  18. Aussie Mormon says:

    What the heck is going on in California that causes such a large number to occur there?

  19. Kristin Brown says:

    Hmm. I thought all comments would stand together in favor of this post….guess not.

  20. BBell, Throwing around blanket, extremist, and unsupported accusations sort of taints your whole comment, so there’s also that to consider.

  21. Thanks for this post, Carolyn, and for all your work on behalf of religious liberty.

    I’ve also heard the “CAIR is a terrorist front group” line from the world of seething Islamophobic email forwards. Someone used to terrorize my grandma with those.

  22. CAIR loves terrorists, this I know!
    Cause Fox News tells me so!

  23. And all the data that exists shows violence perpetuated by domestic actors is a far, far, far greater threat than that posed by immigrants and refugees. The CATO Institute wrote about this yesterday. (and often in the past).

    This might be true(I take all statistical studies with a grain of salt), but the question ia not that but whether the ban and better vetting policies make the country safer. (That is the debate) obviously their are hundreds of millions more native born residents than immigrants and refugees.

  24. Steve, your question is certainly relevant, but the question that takes priority is whether or not this ban represents an unconstitutional violation of religious liberty, and the post above focuses quite clearly on that question.

  25. Steve, there’s always a balance between safety and rights. The comparison there is illustrative because it shows that we’re willing to tolerate more danger from domestic citizens than immigrants or refugees, which in turn means we probably value their rights more highly.

    But even looking strictly at safety, there’s an “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” angle — immigrants and refugees pose a relatively low threat (refugees in particular). So why concentrate energy on restricting them, or vetting them further than we already were? Given that our country has limited resources, how does it make us safer to concentrate on the lesser threat?

  26. Carolyn’s post refers to a great many American Muslims who are less safe because of the rising bigotry of Trumpism. American government under the rule of law is less secure because of this bigotry. The Muslim travel ban, which was brewed in the cauldron of Trump’s hate rallies, is an emblem and a prod for this bigotry. Foreign people with bombs are not the only threats to the nation’s safety.

  27. It’s reprehensible that even any small number of people in our society would attack a place of worship, let alone commit crimes against a person of faith for the reason of their belief.

    We all need to come together against any such activity.

    But it doesn’t do us any good to confuse animus with policy differences. It’s entirely based on precedent to use the immigration system to keep restrict entry from certain areas of the world (areas of active combat, no brainee), and even certain ideologies (communist proponents).

    Personally, I believe our immigration laws are too tight and our welfare spending too high. Provided shooting wants to work for themselves and their family, let them come.

    But we can’t ignore the fact that some areas of the world pose a greater threat. Which is why we vet them. Once you acknowledge the ability and legality to vet potential immigrants based on internally set criteria (which we do), you give the power to deny any entry as well.

    There’s no doubt that immigration has a generational and cultural impact. On average it’s been for the good as far as I can tell. Occasionally it’s had some major downsides. So we shouldn’t just wave our hands around and say it’s all irrational hatred. — but that is what some would prefer to either win the debate (is beyond the scope of argument) or delegitimize the current US President. As similar movements are happening all over the world, including from areas we prevent people from coming here, it’s not exactly a case closed issue.

    Good luck in your efforts. I hope further polarizing isn’t the result of whatever happens here, but wise prudence.

  28. “Provided shooting wants to work for themselves and their family, let them come.”

    Errr… Autocorrected immigrants into shooting… Huh.

  29. Carolyn, thank you for your work. 1005. If I had another life to live (and some actual skills) . . .

    Thank you for this piece. 60%. Positive because I like the writing, and am in agreement politically, legally, morally, and I like the general feeling of support in my religious community for other religious communities and believers, Qualified because I am uncomfortable with the characterization of “community.” I’m afraid that my broader church community (not the friends I gather around me) includes a lot of bigots in fact, where some days it feels like everybody is figuring out which kind of anti- feelings are in ascendancy and can be voiced, and which are in the current minority and should best be kept quiet. So that plaudits for “standing up for our religious neighbors” are warranted, but maybe only 60% warranted.

    [political soapbox mode] Discrimination is the harm. Sometimes we look at facial discrimination— “no Jews allowed.” And reject it. Sometimes we look at superficially legitimate distinctions and (should) reject them because of animus, because they are motivated by impermissible purpose. (That’s most of what’s happening or being argued in the present case, and it’s for that reason—the intent or purpose or animus—that you (and I and many others) call it a “Muslim ban.” But I would acknowledge that the label is advocacy.) Sometimes we look at results and infer bad intent. But in all cases it’s the discrimination by impermissible class that’s the harm. It is not enough that “we could have done it anyway.” It is not enough that “outcomes are fair.” It is not enough that “we didn’t name any protected group.” Defenders may complain that we’re moving the goalpost. But the goal is not “the right way to do it legally” (infamous Trump to Giuliani). The goal is to not discriminate. [soapbox off]

  30. If the words of a politician spoken during a political campaign can be mined to determine the reasons a president or legislator took some action, and if we turn to the courts to pronounce upon the constitutionality of that action, we might as well shut down any pretense of representative government and turn it all over to a group of life-tenured unelected judges. Or, in Judge Hand’s immortal words, to a bevy of Platonic guardians.

    Not every wrong has a judicial solution. This is one of them. The wrong (and I believe it was a wrong) was political, and the solution is political.

  31. “The wrong (and I believe it was a wrong) was political, and the solution is political.”

    Mark B.’s comment is debatable but perfectly fair. However, there is a problem with the way he has phrased this sentence. The past tense (“it was a wrong”) is incorrect. The wrong at issue in this case is present and growing. Assuming that the Court does not strike it down, the travel ban will continue to damage lives and damage the nation. The hatred that gave rise to the ban will infect the government as long as the people who support the policy remain in power. The wrong will continue until we take the necessary political action–by voting, campaigning, and lobbying–to correct it.

  32. Rexicorn says:

    So, Mark B., you don’t believe the judiciary should be a check on the legislature?

  33. Yeah, that “representative government” isn’t necessarily always how the U.S. government is meant to work. Especially when it comes to Constitutional issues like religious freedom.

  34. Well, not just statements during a political campaign— statements after the campaign, contemporaneous with the executive orders, confirming the same thing.

    I agree that a long term solution to the problem will require electoral rejection of trumpism, but in the meantime, I have no problem with calling upon courts too enforce constitutional rights.

  35. To Loursat: my use of the past tense referred to the issuance of the order, and was not intended to suggest that the wrong was not continuing.

    To Rexicorn: there’s nothing in what I wrote from which you could fairly draw that inference. Perhaps you should reread my comment.

    To Tim: if you can cite any basis for deciding that a citizen of, say, Somalia has a “right” to enter the United States or to complain that a denial of a visa was unconstitutional, please do.

  36. Mark B, the briefs and the lower court decisions are publicly available. You can read them.

    We can disagree on the merits, but to act like there’s no basis at all for the challenge is just ignorant.

  37. JKC, I don’t recall anything in the briefs or the lower court decisions that suggested that an alien has a “right” to enter the United States, or a “right” to argue that he is protected by the US Bill of Rights. Instead, the argument seems to be that the named plaintiffs (all US citizens or the State of Hawaii) are somehow harmed because a ban on adherents of a certain religion is an “establishment” of religion–a new religion, apparently, known as “anything but Islam practiced in a small subset of the majority Muslim countries in the world.”

    As I said in my first comment, I think that the travel ban in all its iterations was unnecessary, and that there were much better ways to prevent potential terrorists entering the U.S. And it looks awful, and has had some awful effects. But none of that translates into thinking that there is (or ought to be) a judicial remedy. (If I were the Court, I’d toss the whole case on question 1: is this justiciable?)

  38. Mark, that’s not a very fair summary of the arguments. There is an argument for a judicial remedy under the case law. Maybe it will prevail, maybe not. You can disagree whether it ought to prevail, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no basis for a judicial remedy.

  39. Rexicorn says:

    Mark B, I really wasn’t trying to be unfair. That’s honestly how I read your comment. Based on your follow-up comment, I guess what you’re trying to say is that in *this case* you don’t see a judicial case for unconstitutionality? Is that what you’re saying?

  40. There’s a week’s worth of Con Law I that I could type up in response to your question. Instead of doing that, I’d suggest you go to Scotusblog, open the page on Trump v. Hawaii, and then open the government’s brief (dated February 21, 2018). A summary of the arguments, which I (and apparently a solid majority of the justices of the Court) found generally persuasive, appears on pages 14-17 of the brief (beginning with page 29 of the pdf file).

  41. Mark, surely you’re just trolling at this point. To JKC’s point, cool that you find the government’s arguments persuasive. But, as you’re well aware, those are contested points, being made by advocates for one side. It’s not clear that they’re right (we’ll see once the Supreme Court issues a ruling), and it’s clearly wrong to say that the whole thing is frivolous and easy to remedy.

  42. I was responding to Rexicorn’s question. It seemed that he had asked an honest question, and I gave him an honest answer. If asserting that one side of a contested argument is “trolling,” then I suggest that most of the post and comments should be dismissed as trolling as well.

  43. Mark doesn’t troll, exactly. He sometimes expects readers to pick up on allusions that are familiar to him but not to others (to me, at least, sometimes), and he otherwise expects us to understand reasoning that he hasn’t set out step-by-step for readers to follow, but he isn’t trolling. As long as he does believe the challenges to Trump’s Muslim ban are hogwash, I am glad he’s calling it out here instead of calling me stupid on my own post elsewhere.

    I also wish that commenters everywhere would not be so certain that “obviously, such-and-such is the legal thing, beyond all question.” There is a question. More than one question. And as obvious as the “right” answer is to Mark B. and bbell and ji and others, that answer isn’t yet clear to all of us — not even to the lower courts against whose rulings Trump is petitioning. Those questions wouldn’t have got as far as they have if they were not legitimate questions without obvious answers.

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