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Civil rights complaints rose in 2006, Muslim group reports

Filings against US agencies more than doubled

WASHINGTON -- The number of civil rights complaints by Muslims in the United States jumped 25 percent in 2006, mainly because of a surge in immigration and citizenship problems, a leading US Muslim group said yesterday.

In its annual report on civil rights, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it processed 2,467 complaints last year, up from 1,972 in 2005.

Discrimination complaints against federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, more than doubled to 890 filings from about 380 in 2005 and accounted for more than 36 percent of civil rights complaints.

"This is the first time since 2004 that government agencies represented the highest percentage of complaints," the council said in the 40-page report, "The Status of Muslim Civil Rights in the United States."

"This increase was due primarily to the number of cases related to major immigration issues such as citizenship and naturalization delays," the report said.

Hate crime complaints, including physical attacks against individuals and mosques, rose 9.2 percent to 167 in 2006, compared with 153 a year earlier, the Washington-based advocacy group said in the report.

But hate crimes also declined as a percentage of all complaints, as did other discrimination categories, including racial or religious profiling and verbal harassment.

Independent polls have indicated rising unease of US Muslims about national government policies since the Sept. 11 attacks .

An April report by New York University Law School's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice said post-Sept. 11 US counterterrorism efforts had "institutionalized" discrimination by adding tighter security checks to immigration and citizenship procedures.

A nationwide Pew Research Center poll last month also suggested that 53 percent of Muslims living in the United States believe their lives have become more difficult since the 2001 attacks because of discrimination or government surveillance.

Estimates of the US Muslim population vary widely, with a range of up to 7 million people, because the US Census Bureau does not ask about religious affiliation on its national surveys.

The council began tracking discrimination in 1995. Its first report showed 80 cases for 1995 and 1996.