WASHINGTON — The number of reported bias crimes and civil rights violations committed against Muslims in the United States reached its highest level last year since the period immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a report finds.
The report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations blames the increase on lingering animosity toward Muslims and a growing use of anti-Muslim rhetoric by some political, religious and media figures.
The study, involving cases that were reported to the council by individuals and organizations, was released Wednesday at a news conference.
"We believe the disturbing rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes and in the total number of civil rights cases ... can be attributed at least in part to rising Islamophobic rhetoric in American society," said Arsalan Iftikhar, the council's legal director.
The council counted 1,522 incidents in which Muslims reported their civil rights had been violated in 2004, a 49% increase over 2003. Another 141 incidents of confirmed or suspected bias crimes were committed against Muslims, a 52% increase.
Notable bias or discrimination cases cited in the report include the barring of singer Cat Stevens and Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan from entering the United States, and the arrest of a Muslim lawyer from Oregon jailed as a material witness in the terrorist bombing of Madrid trains based on a fingerprint that turned out to belong to someone else.
Some Muslim leaders were surprised by the findings.
Yaser El-Menshawy, chairman of New Jersey's council of mosques, said he had thought the number of anti-Muslim incidents after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001 hit a peak that would not be repeated.
"I thought we were through with the high point after 9/11," he said. "My gut feeling is it may be a combination of the war in Iraq and mounting casualties, and that we're getting better at collecting this kind of data."