After a year’s search, worshippers at the Masjid Ibraheem, or Mosque of Abraham, in Newark finally found the right religious leader.

Jamal Zahabi is dedicated to the community and has found time to teach prison inmates. A Canadian citizen, originally from Lebanon, he has a knack for bringing together Muslims from various nations, and bridging the gap between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, they said.

Then the U.S. immigration system got in the way, refusing Zahabi entry into the country.

The mosque has hired a lawyer to fight for a visa for Zahabi.

Immigration problems such as this one are among the top complaints of anti-Muslim bias outlined in a report released Thursday by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a leading U.S. Muslim group. Nationally, complaints to the council jumped 25 percent between 2005 and 2006, according to the group’s annual civil rights report.

Jamil Tourk, president of the Islamic Society of Delaware, said his mosque was denied its imam, or religious leader, “because of his name and what he does. Of course we’re going to conclude it’s profiling and discrimination.”

According to the council’s report, of the 2,467 cases, 729, or roughly 30 percent, were legal- or immigration-related. That’s up from about 14 percent of cases in 2005.

“The findings in this report should serve as a reminder that discrimination is still a major issue in our nation,” Arsalan Iftikhar, the report’s author, said in a statement.

The council report also noted 167 anti-Muslim hate crime complaints in 2006, a 9.2 percent increase over 2005. The data did not specify if any of the complaints involved incidents in Delaware.


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