Muslims’ Reports of Bias Rose in 2004

Times Staff Writer

Aside from cases occurring immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, reports of hate and discrimination against Muslims in California reached their highest level last year, according to a report released Wednesday by a U.S. Muslim organization.

The Council on AmericanIslamic Relations in Southern California reported that in 2004 it processed 307 hate-incident reports and civil rights discrimination cases, 86 more than the previous year. However, there is no way of knowing if there was an actual increase in the number of incidents or just a rise in reporting them.

The increase reported by the council marks the highest number of Muslim civil rights discrimination cases reported to the organization’s Anaheim office in its seven-year existence, officials said. The national organization in May reported 1,552 cases for 2004.

The findings paint a bleaker picture than a state report released this month that showed a dramatic drop in crimes against people of Middle Eastern descent, who include Muslims and non-Muslims. The report by the state attorney general compiled only hate crimes investigated by authorities.


The U.S. Muslim council does not know how many of the alleged crimes and hate incidents were investigated by authorities but urged possible victims to contact law enforcement officials.

The organization’s annual report said verbal harassment, unreasonable arrest, employment discrimination and denial of religious accommodation were the most common abuse allegations.

The largest increase came in what the council referred to as unreasonable arrests, a category that included reports of detention, surveillance, interrogation and seizure.

The number of all other alleged abuses tracked by the group -- such as discrimination or verbal harassment -- stayed the same or declined.

“The purpose of the report is to track and analyze trends in order to come up with solutions,” said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the council’s Southern California chapter.

The report attributes the increase in reports to “an ongoing and lingering atmosphere of fear” since Sept. 11, 2001, growing use of anti-Muslim rhetoric by local and national opinion leaders, the Patriot Act and reports from the council’s new chapters in the state.

California Muslims reported that experiences at some airports, schools, public places and government agencies included incidents in which they were verbally harassed, discriminated against or singled out because of perceived religious or ethnic identity, the report says.

Arif Shaikh filed a report saying he and his pregnant wife were held for several hours by security officials at a San Jose airport in August 2004. He said only his wife was allowed on the plane.


“His case is not a unique case, unfortunately,” Ayloush said.

Iliana Soto, director of community building for the Orange County Human Relations Commission, said the two organizations worked in collaboration to create awareness about the Muslim community and to ensure that “these types of crimes and incidents are reported and we have a picture of what’s going on in Orange County.”

Complaints falling under categories such as verbal harassment and racial or religious profiling against California Muslims have decreased since 2003, according to the report.

The report calls for congressional inquiries and government agencies to initiate and support public antidiscrimination campaigns.


“Maybe this report will serve to tell other Americans that we are Americans too,” Ayloush said.