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US Muslim Advocacy Group Reports Increase in Harassment of Muslims in America - 2004-05-03

A U.S. Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, received more than 1,000 complaints of discrimination and harassment in 2003, more than double the number received the year before.

The author of the report, Mohamed Nimer, said the number of incidents of harassment that were reported in 2003 surpassed 1,000, up from 600 the year before. "The incidents range from violent attacks against people, including murders, physical assaults or vandalism of community organizations, most prominently mosques, to verbal harassment to employment discrimination and to mistreatment by government agencies, most importantly related to the implementation of special registration requiring immigrants from Muslim nations to be photographed and fingerprinted," he said.

Mr. Nimer said the Council on American-Islamic Relations has improved its ability to process complaints, which may also account for the increased number of cases. Still, he says Muslims are disturbed to see the trend increasing, not decreasing, over the past several years.

Reports of beatings and vandalism on Muslim-owned property doubled last year. But, the study shows a decrease in complaints of harassment at airport security checks.

The civil rights group has been tracking the status of Muslim civil rights in the United States since 1995. Mr. Nimer blames continuing fears among Americans since the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. He said the war in Iraq and extremist violence in the Middle East also have fueled anti-Muslim sentiments. "The Iraq War has been cited in a number of incidents actually. And there was a lot of hate speech, especially on radio, related to the Iraq War. And, events and incidents in this war that have been construed in the terms of U.S. versus Islam," he said.

The council is calling for Congress to examine how security policies implemented after the 2001 terrorist attacks have affected civil liberties and what could be revised to better protect Muslim communities.