Associated Press, Mar. 12, 2003
By Curt Anderson, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON – A U.S. war with Iraq or another terrorist attack could trigger a wave of hate crimes against Muslims and Arab-Americans in the United States, the FBI said Wednesday.
The FBI, in its weekly bulletin to 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies, said most such attacks have been “isolated acts directed at targets of opportunity” rather than the result of a broader conspiracy against specific ethnic groups.
The crimes have included murders, attempted murders, assaults and arson against mosques, Arab-owned businesses and Islamic centers.
“Law enforcement agencies that encounter seemingly unexplained crimes against persons who appear to be of Arab descent should explore the possibility that the act was ethnically motivated,” the FBI bulletin says.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the FBI recorded a spike in hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims and people of Indian, Sikh or other ethnic backgrounds who might have been mistaken as being of Arab descent.
Between the Sept. 11 attacks and Feb. 14 of this year, the FBI began 414 hate crime investigations that resulted in 140 state and federal prosecutions. The majority of those crimes occurred in a three-week period immediately following the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that killed 3,000 people.
“War with Iraq or a terrorist incident is likely to precipitate a similar increase in crimes against Arab-Americans,” the FBI bulletin says.
Local law enforcement agencies should expedite hate crime investigations and prosecutions and assure local Arab and Islamic communities of a commitment to stop the crimes, the FBI advised.
At the national level, FBI Director Robert Mueller has met several times with leaders of Arab-American, Muslim and Sikh organizations to reinforce the bureau’s commitment to preventing and investigating hate crime. Part of the FBI’s effort to interview up to 50,000 Iraqis living in the United States is to assure them that an ethnic backlash to war will not be tolerated.
Some of these same leaders have made presentations at the FBI training center in Quantico, Va., aimed at improving agents’ cultural sensitivity and communications skills with Arab and Muslim communities.