I remember the first time it happened – we were in a pretty big city in the Midwest, federal court, well before 9-11. Some of the jurors were from outside the city. The defendant was Pakistani and there was a question from the judge (no attorney questioning allowed) about whether anyone would have any trouble being fair to someone who was Pakistani. The juror proceeded to talk about Pakistanis she had known who ran stores in another city where she had lived. I think she was actually talking about Palestinians. And I remember thinking, her problem is with Palestinians, but does it matter? I don't think it did.

In the years since 9-11 we at the National Jury Project have had numerous cases involving criminal defendants and civil and commercial parties who are Middle Eastern, Arab, Muslim or whose names and appearance cause jurors to think that they are one or all of the above. Some of them have been defendants in terrorism cases, others criminal defendants in ordinary crimes, some charged with white collar crimes. Others have been involved in civil or commercial cases which have little or nothing to do with their ethnicity. But we have found that anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice is rife regardless of the case. In many of those cases we have been able to persuade the judge to use a juror questionnaire. It has often made a huge difference in our ability to identify bias and prejudice and get cause challenges.

We've found that anti-Arab/Muslim prejudice comes in a variety of forms. Some of it stems from perceptions that all Arabs and Muslims are terrorists. Some it comes from personal experiences that jurors have had with Arabs or Muslims at work or in stores owned by Arabs or Muslims. Other jurors believe that Christianity is in a Holy War with Muslims. One juror told us he had problems with Muslims because "Christianity has been at war with the Muslims for 500 years". This in a commercial case involving construction!

We've had clients of Arab ancestry who have said, but I'm not Muslim, I'm Christian. It's hard to explain to them that that probably won't matter in terms of prejudice. In the questionnaire you can construct a question such as, "Ms. _______ is of Arab ancestry, although she and her family are Christians. Is there any reason why you would have a problem with someone who is of Arab ancestry who is also Christian?" Believe me, there are Christian fundamentalists who either won't believe it or won't like it – and if they're in your jury pool, you better figure it out.

Of course, any jury questionnaire has to be tailored to the case and the jurisdiction. Trial consultants should do a search of local news stories and talk to the attorneys and the clients about controversial issues involving Arabs or Muslims that have come up in the community – even those going back years, because community memory can be long. Prejudice can be based on perceptions that Arabs have "taken over the old such and such neighborhood". You can ask jurors if they ever go to that part of town. In one case, there was community resentment because of misbehavior of some wealthy Arabs at local hotels. We've found jurors who are resentful that Arabs have been hired to work in certain departments at their job or that Muslims are allowed to take the time to pray – it's seen as special treatment. Often there is resentment in the inner city on the part of other people of color who feel they have been "cheated" in Arab-owned stores. In an employment case we worked on, attitudes of the Muslim plaintiff towards women subordinates was an issue. If there have been local controversies, news articles can be attached to the motion for a juror questionnaire, along with any polls about anti-Arab or anti-Muslim attitudes in general, to persuade the judge to grant the questionnaire.

There are some questions that will elicit the biases we see against anyone who is or will be perceived as being Middle Eastern and/or Muslim regardless of the case. Following are some of the questions that have worked the best in our questionnaires, many of them general, some more specific.

1. What kind of contact have you had with Muslims, Arabs, Middle Eastern immigrants or people with Arab ancestry?

2. IF YOU ARE NOT ARAB OR MUSLIM: Please describe any contact you have had with Arab or Muslim people:

  Past        Present









3. Have your experiences with people from the Middle East generally been:

___ positive ___ negative ___ mixed

Please explain:

4. Have you or anyone you know ever had any negative experiences with Muslims, Middle Eastern immigrants or people with Arab ancestry?

____ Yes   No ____

IF YES, is this:

___ Yourself  ___  Spouse ___  Child  ___ Family ___  Friend

Please explain:

5. There were accusations of misconduct a few years ago regarding Middle Eastern men in a local hotel. Do you remember hearing anything at all about this situation?

____ Yes   No ____

IF YES, what do you remember and what were your impressions about the situation:

6. What effect do you think the influx of Muslims, Arabs and Middle Eastern immigrants has had on (the City or Area)?

7. Are there ethnic, racial or religious groups of people which you do not care to associate with?

____ Yes   No ____

IF YES, which groups and why?

8. Have you ever traveled outside the United States?

____ Yes   No ____

What Country? When? Business or Pleasure? What Country? When? Business or Pleasure?







9. Have you ever known anyone from another country who worked in the U.S. and had to have a green card or permit to continue working here?

____ Yes   No ____

IF YES, please explain:

10. Have you ever traveled in the Middle East?

____ Yes   No ____

Please explain:

11. How did the events of September 11, 2001 affect your feelings about Arab and Muslim people?

12. How significant a problem do you think prejudice against Arab or Muslim people is in _______ County today?

13. How significant a problem do you think prejudice against Arabs and Muslims is in this country today?

14. Were you or anyone you know affected personally by the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

____ Yes   No ____

IF YES, please explain:

15. Are you still feeling any direct or indirect effects from September 11th?

____ Yes   No ____

Please explain:

16. Do you know anyone who is or has been involved in the war in Afghanistan or Iraq?

____ Yes   No ____

IF YES, please explain, included how this might affect you in a case where the defendant is of Arab ancestry:

17. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11th, some people have negative feelings about Arabs, Muslims and people from the Middle East. Please tell us what your feelings are about Arabs, Muslims and people from the Middle East at this time:

18. Some people believe that Arabs and Muslims are more likely to offer or take bribes than other racial or ethnic groups. What do you think about this?

19. How do you feel about companies from the Middle East owning stores, hotels, and other businesses in (your state or city)?

20. Some people believe that Arab people are more likely to try to cheat in business. What do you think about this?

21. Some people believe that Arab nationals or immigrants are more likely to break the law than other racial or ethnic groups. What do you think about this?

22. Do you tend to think that Arab people are less honest than U.S. citizens are?

____ Yes   No ____

Please explain your feelings:

23. Some people believe that Arab men are more likely to treat women as second class citizens. What do you think about this?

24. Is there anything about your religious beliefs that would make it difficult for you to fairly and impartially sit in judgment of a person of the Muslim faith?

____ Yes   No ____

IF YES, please explain:

25. Have you ever contributed money to an organization that opposes immigration or opposes certain rights for immigrants or proposes changes to the immigration laws?

____ Yes   No ____

IF YES, please explain:

26. The defendant, Mr. _____ is a citizen of India who came to US as a student in 1995, and after graduating received a work visa and has been working here for 10 years. Some people are opposed to non-citizens working in the US, others think it is okay. What are your feelings about non-citizens working in the US?

Given recent developments with the opposition to the Muslim Community Center in New York City and the threat by the pastor in Florida to burn a number of Qur'ans, I will most likely include the following questions in my next questionnaire.

27. Do you think that a Mosque or Muslim Community Center should be built two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City?

____ Yes   No ____

Please explain your thinking about this:

28. What did you think about the controversy where a pastor in Florida was threatening to burn the Muslim Holy Book, the Qur'an or Koran?


For more information about juror questionnaires in general, including jurisdictions where they have been used, sample questionnaires and motions, see JURYWORK: Systematic Techniques (Krauss, Elissa, West Group, 2d Ed., 1978, updated annually).


Diane Wiley is a pioneer in the field of trial consulting, founder of the National Jury Project and President of the Midwest Office in Minneapolis. She has extensive experience and prides herself on making her work available to attorneys on cases both big and small all across the country. She has written numerous articles and chapters for legal publications and teaches at seminars. Diane's email address is dwiley@njp.com and the National Jury Project's website is www.njp.com.