WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) implied Tuesday that Christians are as victimized by hate crimes as Muslims in the United States.
Speaking at a hearing called by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) about the civil rights of Muslim Americans, Kyl said, "I'm a bit perplexed by the focus of today's hearing. If we're concerned about the most egregious religious hate crimes, then I wonder why we're not talking about crimes against Jews and Christians."
According to FBI statistics, 70 percent of all religious hate crimes reported in 2009 were against Jews. Eight percent targeted Muslims. There are three times as many Jews as Muslims in the U.S., according to the CIA World Factbook, so both overall and per capita, Jews are more frequent victims of hate crimes than Muslims.
But hate crimes against Christians are, by all accounts, dwarfed by those committed against Muslims. In 2009, there were 107 reported anti-Muslim hate crimes. Muslims constitute 0.6 percent of the population. By contrast, a total of 89 reported hate crimes were recorded against Catholics and Protestants, which together make up 75 percent of the population.
Durbin argued in the hearing that harsh language from some GOP officials has created a "a fertile climate for discrimination" against Muslims. In one high-profile incident, a New York man charged with stabbing a cab driver for being Muslim last August, in the midst of widespread protests against a proposal to build an Islamic culture center with a prayer room two blocks from Ground Zero.
Kyl, who will not seek re-election next year, affirmed that he believes American Muslims deserve free speech rights, but added: "The only way to stop terrorists is to recognize where they're coming from. Political correctness cannot stand in the way of identifying those who would do us harm."