In so many ways, Arab-Americans in North Jersey are just like any other Americans in North Jersey. They want to provide for their families, worship as they see fit and make sure their children receive a proper and safe education.

Many of them have been here for generations. However, despite widespread assimilation, many Arab-Americans remain under false suspicion. Indeed, recent data from a report released by the Council on Arab-Islamic Relations point to troubling signs. The report, issued last month, shows a significant rise in anti-Muslim bias across the United States over the past two years. It also shows that Arab-Americans, regardless of nation or origin or religious beliefs, have become increasingly targets of ethnic profiling, if not outright racial bias.

CAIR, a nationwide nonprofit Islamic civil liberties group, reported 1,972 incidents of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination and harassment in 2005, an increase of 29 percent over 2004. The number is the highest since the group began compiling the statistics a decade ago.

“The primary reason is there is still rising anti-Muslim sentiment, and Islamaphobia is becoming more institutionalized,” said Arsalan Iftikhar, CAIR’s national legal director. “You hear a lot more anti-Muslim rhetoric in media outlets, and Muslim-bashing has sort of become the acceptable racism in this country now.”

That dangerous rhetoric has even reached the top levels of U.S. government. It was only in the past several months that the Bush administration began throwing out the reckless term “Islamo-fascists,” to refer to the enemy in the so-called “war on terror.”

It is unfortunate, indeed, for the elected leader of a nation that claims to put a premium on civil rights to engage in such terminology in what is already a difficult and anxious time. To say the least, it shows little regard for the more than 3.5 million Arab-Americans who reside in this country – many of them Muslims – including the estimated 240,000 who live in New Jersey.


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