Sometimes it takes a real yahoo to wake up a village.

So, just wanted to say thanks to the person who sent Altaf Ali, executive director of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a death threat last week.

It carried the usual “Death to Islam” rantings. But this one also had the chilling message: “Altaf Ali is a walking dead man.”

Good job. We needed the wake-up call.

Needed to remember that, six years after 9-11, Muslims in America continue to be the targets of violence and abuse.

We especially need it now, with President Bush threatening a veto of legislation that would expand the national hate crime law. Currently, the federal government is only allowed to get involved if a hate crime specifically targets a federally protected activity. Voting, for example.

The president believes the new law isn’t needed. There are already state and local laws addressing the issue of hate crimes, he says.

Wish he could speak for a few minutes with Ali, who is on the front lines of religious intolerance and hatred.

“We’ve seen acts against Muslims escalating,” said Ali, who started in his post in 2000. “It used to be that many of the complaints were about discrimination against Muslims, the wrongful firing of Muslim workers. Stones being thrown through the windows of mosques, vandalism. But in the past six months, we’ve seen a severe escalation.”

Official state data shows that, in 2005, 260 hate crimes were reported in Florida. Of those, 36 percent were attacks based on religion and ethnicity.

But that’s misleading. Because Muslims — particularly in these post-9-11 days when they feel so isolated from the rest of American society — tend not to report such crimes. They call CAIR instead.


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