The leader of a major Arab-American advocacy group said yesterday that there was a "rising tide of Islamaphobia" in America and that more Muslim-Americans are being targeted and threatened now than immediately after 9/11.
Salam Al-Marayati and FBI officials here spoke with reporters yesterday after a federal civil-rights charge was lodged against a Philadelphia woman for sending a threatening note to her Arab-American boss.
Al-Marayati and FBI agent Brian Lynch said the case was unusual because of the cooperation among the Arab-American community, the FBI and the victim.
Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said most Muslim-American victims of hate crimes are reluctant to alert authorities because they don't trust the government.
But he said the victim in this case, a hotel manager, "broke through the fear and barrier of engaging" with community organizations and the FBI.
Lynch said that the feds want victims of hate crimes to come forward but that the FBI can investigate them only if they involve the threat of force; are motivated by bias involving race, religion or ethnicity, and interfere with a person's civil rights.
Al-Marayati said if Muslim-Americans don't report hate-crime incidents, they will be forced to live in "psychological, if not physical, ghettoization."
There were 37 such incidents reported in Philadelphia in 2005, up from 20 in 2004, according to the FBI.
It's unclear how many involved violations of federal law or resulted in charges.
Diane Costa, the victim's lawyer, said her client wants to remain anonymous because she fears for her children, ages 11 and 7. Kia Reid, 35, was charged May 1 by criminal information, a process by which a defendant intends to plead guilty. No date for the plea has been set.
Reid and her victim worked together at the Sheraton Suites Hotel near the airport.
The information alleged that after Reid's boss, who was born in Cairo, Egypt, and is a practicing Muslim, returned from a business trip last October, she found a letter left in her office that included phrases such as "REMEMBER 9/11," "You and your kids will pay" and "death."
Costa said her client "went to work every day in fear" from October until March, when Reid was arrested.
The feds cracked the case when a hotel worker agreed to become a government informant and wore a wire during conversations with Reid.