- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Local law enforcement officials say the number of hate crimes against area Muslims has declined steadily since peaking about a month after September 11.
Hours after terrorists slammed hijacked airplanes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Alexandria was one of the first cities to report an anti-Muslim hate crime that police said was likely retaliation for the attacks.
Someone had smashed the window of a Muslim bookstore with a brick, Alexandria police spokesman Lt. John Crawford said. Except for one other incident soon after, in which a white man assaulted a Middle Eastern driver of a taxicab, "we have not had any [more]," Lt. Crawford said.
Fairfax County police say they also have seen a decline in the number of hate crimes.
"Basically, a month or so after September 11, there was a peak," Sgt. Ken Baine said yesterday.
But Sgt. Baine also said hate crimes are still occurring, and with more frequency so far this year.
Fairfax police recently investigated an incident at Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Center in Herndon after an employee reported that someone had broken glass panes on the center's doors several times last month and on one occasion entered the building and urinated on the floor.
Fairfax police said 137 bias-motivated incidents were reported in the county last year. Of those, 77 were classified as "bias crimes." In 2000, 31 bias-motivated acts were reported.
In Montgomery County, year-end crime statistics released last month showed that hate crimes increased from 41 in 2000 to 97 last year. Twenty-six religion-inspired hate crimes were reported between September 11 and the end of the year, but police noted that few incidents were reported after October.
Representatives of the region's Muslim community say that while yearlong statistics show reports of hate crimes near an all-time high, there has been a significant drop-off since "those initial, very difficult days" after September 11.
"Things have shifted from threats or shootings at mosques to more subtle things, like discrimination at work," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a D.C.-based Islamic advocacy group.
Mr. Hooper said the number of anti-Muslim incidents declined significantly after Oct. 7, when the United States began its bombing campaign in Afghanistan.
"I guess the [anti-Muslim] emotions were highest in that first month or so [after September 11]," he said.
However, Mr. Hooper said, the number of incidents rises each time the U.S. government issues new, "vague terrorist warnings."
"The government should use more discretion with what they announce, because the warnings of terrorism increase the level of tension and keep people on edge," he said. "We've had incidents right after terrorist warnings were announced, where a Muslim family was scoping out a possible school for their children to attend and they end up getting reported to police as acting suspicious."
Police and area Muslim leaders stress the importance of distinguishing between hate crimes and less-serious incidents.
"Hate crimes take many forms. At the lowest level, it's just calling names," said Ghayth Kashif, an imam at the Masjidush Ashura Mosque in the District. "If it's allowed, it will embolden those people calling the names. At the highest level, it is hanging people by trees or whatever is equal to that."
Mr. Hooper said an incident "really becomes a hate crime when there's criminality involved. Below that, it's a bias-related incident."
"A child being called a bad name at school wouldn't necessarily be a hate crime because there's no law against it," he said.
"You don't want to use the term 'hate crime' too loosely. But that doesn't mean there's not hate involved."

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