Anti-Muslim Acts In Five States Being Investigated By Department Of Justice
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating a handful of apparently anti-Muslim incidents in four states, including the stabbing of a Muslim cab driver in New York City.
FBI agents and civil rights division investigators also are looking into vandalism and other incidents at mosques or mosque construction sites in Arlington, Texas; Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Madera, Calif.; and Waterport, N.Y.
The open criminal investigations were confirmed by civil rights division spokeswoman Xochitl (SOH-chee) Hinojosa in response to a query from The Associated Press.
The suspected anti-Muslim incidents, following the uproar over a planned mosque near ground zero in New York and Saturday’s planned burning of copies of the Quran at a church in Gainesville, Fla., were the topics of a meeting Tuesday between Attorney General Eric Holder and Muslim and other religious leaders.
Holder called the planned Quran burning, to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, “idiotic and dangerous,” the religious leaders said following the private meeting.
A Justice Department official who was present confirmed Holder said that the plan by the Rev. Terry Jones to burn copies of the Quran at his church was idiotic. But the official, who requested anonymity because the meeting was private, said Holder was quoting Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, when he used the word “dangerous.” Petraeus said the book burning could endanger U.S. troops.
Justice spokesman Matthew Miller said afterward that Holder “reiterated the department’s strong commitment to prosecuting hate crimes, and noted several successes.”
In the past 18 months, the department “has prosecuted three men who burned a mosque in Tennessee, two others who burned an African-American church in Massachusetts and another who spray-painted threats on a synagogue in Alabama, among other cases,” Miller said. “Violence against individuals or institutions based on religious bias is intolerable and the department will bring anyone who commits such crimes to justice.”
The religious leaders had sought a forceful public statement from Holder condemning hate crimes, and suggested he speak out before the Sept. 11 anniversary. They also want an order for his community relations service to try to defuse tensions over Jones’ plans.