A public forum on hate crimes against Muslims is scheduled for Saturday in Melbourne, following statewide vigils a week ago that raised awareness of hate crimes against gays. Both gays and Muslims contend they face growing hostility and violence in Florida.

“Unfortunately, what we are seeing is an increase in the rhetoric of hate against Islam and Muslims,” said Sabiha Khan, director of the Orlando office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is sponsoring the forum.

The forum, scheduled for 2 p.m. on the Florida Institute of Technology campus, is the latest in several community-awareness events CAIR has hosted since a Muslim man was shot at in September 2006 after stepping outside a Melbourne mosque to use his cell phone. Five shots were fired, one barely missing the man’s head.

The year before, attacks based on religion and ethnicity accounted for 36 percent of the 260 reported hate crimes in Florida. Reported hate crimes based on a person’s ethnicity or national origin peaked at 95 in 2001, following 9-11. They dropped to 44 in 2002, but have increased to 58 in 2005.


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