A new report from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation documents a surge in so-called hate crimes targeting Arabs and others who appeared to be Muslims in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Muslim-American groups say they are not surprised by the FBI report that found hate crimes against Muslims rose by more than 1,500 percent in 2001.
The FBI reports annually on hate crimes, which it defines as acts of violence or intimidation motivated by prejudice.
The report says there were 481 incidents targeting Muslims and others of Middle Eastern descent during 2001, up from a total of just 28 incidents the previous year.
The report did not say how many of the incidents took place after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But law enforcement officials and Muslim-American groups believe that the increase is directly tied to the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
While some of the post-September 11 apprehension has faded, Muslim-Americans are concerned about a number of recent anti-Islamic statements made by prominent U.S. Christian evangelical leaders, says Hodan Hassan, a spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington.
"So we are worried about what the effects will be of this sort of constant hammering of an 'Islam is evil' message coming from certain sectors," said Ms. Hassan. "So we hope that further education can help decrease the potential for hate crimes. After all, education has always been the key to breaking ignorance and stereotypes."
But Hodan Hassan also says that there have been some positive developments for American-Muslims in the wake of the September 11 attacks. She commends President George W. Bush for reaching out to the American-Muslim community and says a number of local leaders around the country have followed the president's example.
"There are a lot of positive stories of mayors and police chiefs who have worked hard to establish relationships with the American Muslim community and have encouraged, whether it is to the school system or sort of general community forums, an increased understanding of different faiths," she said.
Despite the surge in hate crimes targeting Muslims, the FBI says that Muslims still remain far behind other groups that are the victims of hate crimes including African Americans, Jews, homosexuals and whites.