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Muslim Group Sees Sept. 11 Backlash

April 30, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ Violence and harassment against Muslims have multiplied in part because of the government’s war on terrorism, a private group says.

``Unfortunately, in the past government acts have sent the wrong message,″ said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

He said government ethnic and religious profiling as well as detentions and interrogations ``send a green light to mistreat Muslims.″

As evidence, his group released a report based on complaints it has received from Muslims about mistreatment ranging from harassment to vandalism and murder.

The complaints, Awad said, increased threefold over the past year to 1,516, the vast majority reported after Sept. 11. Even without counting the post-terrorism outbreak, anti-Muslim incidents increased by 43 percent from a year earlier, according to the complaints.

Detaining civilians on suspicion of having links to terrorist cells, conducting inappropriate searches of Muslims at airports and conducting raids and questioning legal immigrants all contribute to the anti-Muslim atmosphere, he said.

``We supported the government’s actions in the beginning ... but we believe that stereotypes should not become policies,″ Awad said.

President Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other administration members have repeatedly admonished Americans to practice tolerance, and they insist the war against terrorists is not a war against Muslims.

Ashcroft on Tuesday highlighted his search for terrorists outside the Arab world by announcing the indictment of a Colombian rebel group and six of its members in connection with the murders of three Americans.

``Just as we fight terrorism in the mountains of south Asia, we will fight terrorism in our own hemisphere,″ Ashcroft said.

Awad and other council officials said part of the problem is a lack of Muslim representation and said their organization is conducting a voter registration drive.

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