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UA Little Rock Duo Awards $324K Grant to Study Anti-Muslim Sentiment, Crimes

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Two criminal justice professors at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock have been awarded a three-year, $324,987 National Science Foundation grant to study anti-Muslim sentiment and Muslim hate crimes in Arkansas.

They are Tusty ten Bensel, Ph.D., director of the School of Criminal Justice and Criminology, and Robert Lytle, Ph.D., the graduate coordinator for the school.

They will examine the context and incidence of anti-Muslim sentiment, ranging from prejudice to hate crimes. The study will focus on the perceptions of Muslims in Arkansas who have been the target of discrimination, harassment or interpersonal crime, along with the effects such behaviors have on victims.

The grant also includes funding for 30 undergraduate students to participate in the design, implementation, analysis and reporting of this project. Students can begin working on the project in 2022. It will run for three eight-week summer sessions.

“I’s important to understand the scope and contributing factors to a problem when coming up with strategies to address the problem. We hope that this project will help identify the manner in which bias-motivated crime emerges in Arkansas to help efforts by law enforcement and policymakers to protect the Muslim community,” Lytle said in a new release. “This is in addition to promoting community cohesion and improved relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim community in Arkansas.”

Another goal of the project is to help criminal justice students gain a deeper understanding of the scope and magnitude of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the state.

“One of the purposes of this study is to understand the nature and extent of anti-Muslim sentiments and hate crimes in Arkansas, but it is also to help victims understand that their anti-Muslim experiences and victimization are important to report to the authorities and are not experiences that should be tolerated by any members of a group,” ten Bensel said in the release. “The outcome of this project could have a number of practical and policy implications. It will raise awareness of anti-Muslim hate crimes and the obstacles to social integration, reporting, and seeking support after experiencing anti-Muslim hate crimes. The larger study will inform avenues for improving the relationship between the criminal justice system and Muslim community.”

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