WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Incidents of violence, discrimination and harassment against Muslims in the United States soared 70 percent in 2003 over the previous year, an Islamic civil rights group reported on Monday.
The war in Iraq and the lingering atmosphere of fear from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks contributed to the sharp rise in anti-Muslim activity, according to a report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
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Other factors included an increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric by some in government and the media, implementation of the USA Patriot Act — which has been criticized as infringing on the constitutional right to privacy — and increased reporting and documentation by members of the Muslim community, the report said.
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“The disturbing jump in reports of anti-Muslim incidents is a wake-up call to those commentators who use their public positions to spread anti-Muslim hate,” said the report’s author, Mohamed Nimer.
There were 1,019 reports of anti-Islamic acts in the United States in 2003, up from 602 in 2002 and more than 10 times the number of reports received the first year the council kept count, in 1995.
The incidents ranged from business and housing discrimination to violent threats and the discriminatory application of law to Internet harassment and hate crimes.
Hate crimes increased by 121 percent over 2002 to 93 incidents from 42. They ranged from vandalism against Muslim-owned property to beatings and at least four killings.
Arizona, New York, California and New Jersey recorded the highest increases in anti-Islamic incident reports. California, which has the largest Muslim population in the United States, had 221 incidents reported in 2003, the most of all 50 states.
Florida, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Michigan all reported decreases in the number of incidents last year.
The council began keeping statistics on anti-Muslim acts in 1995 in response to a surge in such activity after the April 19, 1995, federal building bombing in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people.
Initial reporting erroneously suggested the perpetrators might have been Muslims. U.S. native Timothy McVeigh was executed in 2001 for his role in the bombing.