Being Muslim in Michigan

According to recent reports, discrimination against Muslims is decreasing, but locally and nationally, work remains to be done.
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Amy Doukoure is the Michigan staff attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. // Photograph by Nick Hagen

The national landscape of discrimination facing Muslim Americans is changing fast, according to a report this spring by civil rights group the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The report reveals a trend of decreasing discrimination overall, especially when it comes to interactions with the government. In Michigan, the shifting dynamics are a bit more nuanced.

“I think that being Muslim in Michigan offers some unique opportunities that we don’t have other places. The fact that we have a large presence here in Michigan — a lot of people have festivals … that provide us a way to celebrate our religion in a way that a lot of people in other states don’t have,” says Amy Doukoure, the Michigan staff attorney for CAIR.

“Michigan also has some problematic policies. We’re a state that really rallied behind [former President Donald] Trump in some places, which led to a surge in Islamophobic behavior for a period of time that we’re still seeing some ramifications of.”

In 2022, CAIR received a total of 5,156 complaints of incidents of discrimination nationwide, a 23 percent decrease from 2021, according to the council’s 2023 report.

“Domestic politics have been less volatile over the last couple of years,” the report says. “Less volatility may have contributed to a reduction in the number of complaints. We note that complaints about law enforcement and government overreach dropped by 38 percent. At the same time, complaints about school incidents increased by 63 percent.”

CAIR’s Michigan chapter has also reported an increase in the proportion of education-related complaints, more than doubling from 4 percent of total complaints in 2020 to 9 percent in 2022. Other areas are seeing improvement, in particular travel.

“What CAIR-MI saw in 2021 is that there are still specific trends affecting Muslims while they travel, including a significant increase in electronics seizures at the border,” the CAIR Michigan report from 2022 reads.

“However, the total number of complaints from Muslims related to difficulties traveling had decreased by nearly 50%. We also saw a trending upwards of employment and school related issues along with intakes related to religious rights of incarcerees.”

CAIR’s 2023 report also noted a sharp decrease in the number of discriminatory incidents between Muslim citizens and law enforcement since the current administration took over the White House.

Dawn Ison, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, notes that law enforcement has been more proactive in combating discrimination.

“In some ways, we have made progress in Michigan and at the federal level, but we still have work to do,” she says.

“Some of the reasons that we have seen an improvement, as the report noted, in law enforcement at the federal level is because of our engagement. There was a decrease in complaints against the FBI and CPB [Customs and Border Protection]. We really do engage with the community a lot, listen to those concerns, and respond to them.”

For those who have experienced discrimination, she says it’s important to reach out to the authorities — as well as CAIR.

“Do not suffer in silence. We are a resource for these communities, … and they should utilize us. Call the FBI, and call us, and we will respond.”

CAIR has resources available for anyone who has been a victim of discrimination. The organization can be reached by phone at 248-559-2247, by email at info@cairmichigan.org, or online at cair.com.


This story is from the August 2023 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.