CAIR-FL: CITIZENSHIP STILL A DREAM
Ahmed Sheikh-Khalil proudly remembers the day he aced his citizenship test.
"Passed with flying colors," said Khalil, 50, a native of Syria. "I still have the congratulations letter."
Immigration officials were supposed to notify him within 120 days whether he would be a U.S. citizen. But more than three years later, Khalil remains stuck in bureaucratic limbo, a delay he attributes to his Muslim heritage.
"It's because of my name," said Khalil, a Tampa resident. "If I had done something wrong, they would make me leave. They know where I live. They know everything about me."
Khalil is one of 168 Muslims who reported acts of discrimination to the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, according to a report released Wednesday.
Complaints of civil rights violations jumped by 50 percent from the previous year, ranking Florida fourth in the nation, the report showed.
Ahmed Bedier, the council's Tampa director, said there are a number of factors contributing to the discrimination, including continued tension over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism.
"It seems like if you look Muslim, you're automatically treated like a suspicious person," he said.
The largest number of complaints, both nationwide and in Florida, were related to immigration. Muslim-Americans applying for citizenship often face unfair delays because their background checks are not processed as quickly as those of other applicants, Bedier said.