Hate crimes (search) were down sharply in 2002 following a spike the year before that was blamed in part on anti-Muslim and Middle Eastern sentiment after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The 7,462 hate crime incidents reported to the FBI in 2002 represented a drop of nearly 25 percent from the 9,730 reported in 2001, the agency said Wednesday. The number also was below the 8,063 incidents recorded in 2000.
There were 155 hate crime incidents listed as anti-Islamic last year, down sharply from the 481 reported in 2001
In addition, there were 622 hate crime incidents listed in 2002 against ethnic groups that include people of Middle Eastern descent, down from 1,500 in 2001. There were 931 anti-Jewish incidents in 2002, slightly below the number in 2001.
Arab-American and Muslim advocates agreed that hate crimes dropped from 2001 to 2002. But they said these people still suffer disproportionate discrimination in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks and the Iraq war.
"There's an uneasy relationship between the Muslim community and law enforcement," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (search).
Many Arab-Americans and Muslims fail to report crimes for fear of government harassment, said Dalia Hashad, attorney advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union (search).
People have grown fearful of contacting the FBI or local police because of government policies like forced registration of mainly Middle Eastern men, perceptions of police profiling in terrorist investigations and more restrictive immigration rules.
"Bringing yourself to the attention of the government if you are Arab or Muslim in this country puts you at risk of being questioned," Hashad said. "You see people less willing to trust the government."
Hooper said that even if anti-Islam hate crime has waned, people who appear Arab or Muslim still are confronted more often than in the past with indignities such as lack of service or tougher scrutiny at airports.
"It's more your everyday, run-of-the-mill discrimination that Muslims are feeling," he said.
For a crime to involve hate, authorities must show a bias by the offender against the victim's race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability. The hate crime numbers are based on reports to the FBI from more than 12,000 state and local law enforcement agencies.
Among other findings in the report:
--As in the past, racial bias accounted for nearly half of the 2002 incidents, with the vast majority of those -- nearly 2,500 -- involving crimes against blacks. Anti-white bias accounted for 719 hate crimes in 2002.
--Intimidation made up about 52 percent of all hate crime incidents, followed by vandalism or destruction of property and assault. Eleven murders and eight rapes involved some element of hate in 2002, the FBI report said.
--There were 1,244 hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2002, compared with 1,375 the year before.
--There were more than 9,200 victims of hate crimes in 2002. There were also a total of 8,832 offenses committed in hate crime incidents, which sometimes involve more than one criminal charge.