Five years ago, a few days after terrorists murdered thousands and destroyed the World Trade Center, I went to pray at the most peaceful, anti-violent place I could think of, the downtown Brooklyn meeting house of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as the Quakers.

In addition to the still, soul-cleansing religious service, the Quakers asked for volunteers to escort Muslim women and girls to and from school in Brooklyn, explaining that many had already gone into hiding after being threatened with violence on the street.

Now, years later, and as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan concludes, Muslims from coast to coast continue to be targeted for insult and attack, a fact that should shame and disgust all freedom-loving Americans.

Just last week in California, a mother of six named Alia Ansari was shot to death while walking to an elementary school with her 3-year-old daughter. Police have made one arrest in the case, but Ansari’s family members are saying her murder was a hate crime because the Afghan-born victim was wearing a hijab, a traditional Muslim headscarf, at the time she was shot.

Ansari’s killer was swimming in a sea of anti-Muslim bias. This year, an ABC/Washington Post poll found that 46% of Americans have a negative perception of Islam – 7% higher than in the months immediately following the 9/11 attacks. The same poll found that one in four Americans admitted having personal bias toward Muslims.

Let hatred fester, and this is what you get: a woman gunned down in broad daylight while holding her child’s hand.

The killing comes shortly after a new study by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights organization, recorded 1,972 complaints of bias or hate attacks against Muslims in 2005, a jump of nearly 30% above the 1,522 reported in 2004. The group says last year saw the highest number of complaints since a burst of 1,717 logged in the six months after 9/11.

The CAIR report is a disturbing catalogue of religious bigotry and violence. Last November, a man named Robert Blackburn was arrested for allegedly firing more than 50 shots at cars parked outside a Philadelphia-area mosque; Blackburn was in hunting gear with a rifle when cops nabbed him. In Florida, a mosque being built in Boca Raton had its sign burned three times and defaced with profanities. Last December, a pair of pipe bombs destroyed part of a mosque outside of Cincinnati.


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