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Anti muslim incidents in florida increase in 2004 { May 12 2005 }

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Report: 103 Anti-Muslim Incidents In Florida In 2004

POSTED: 12:58 am EDT May 12, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. -- There were 103 anti-Muslim incidents reported in Florida last year, an 18 percent increase over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday by the Florida Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Even though Florida ranked No. 7 in the nation for anti-Muslim incidents, the rate of increase was smaller than the rest of the nation. But Muslim leaders in Florida were concerned about the increase in hate crimes, which rose to 15 in 2004 from 2 in 2003, said Ahmed Bedier, central Florida director of CAIR.

Bedier attributed the hate crimes spike to the beheadings in the Middle East that occurred last year.

"After 911, we thought as we moved away from that time, the number of incidents would decline," Bedier said. "But we've seen an opposite trend. The bias and the stereotypes is settling in. People are becoming accepting to the notion that Islam is the enemy of America. It's not said, but people feel it."

Twenty-four incidents of discriminatory application of the law, the largest category of anti-Muslim incidents, were reported. But the figure was slightly less than last year.

Bedier said he hopes the report causes public officials to speak out against "Islamphobia."

"We believe most of these incidents are the results of ignorance," Bedier said. "Individuals are lashing out against fellow Americans thinking they're the enemy. But these people are just as patriotic as they are. They just happen to practice a different religion."

Nationwide, reports of hate crimes against Muslims rose 52 percent to 141 last year compared with 2003, and claims of civil rights violations reported to the council jumped 49 percent to 1,522.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press.

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