The Council on American Islamic Relations is out with a new report that says anti-Muslim bias incidents increased 17 percent and hate crimes were up 15 percent nationwide between 2016 and 2017.

According to CAIR executive director Jim Sues, the organization believes President Donald Trump’s executive order barring visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries has contributed to the increasing number of bias incidents and hate crimes that have been reported.

"CAIR has filed a lawsuit against the unconstitutional Muslim ban, as have several other civil rights organizations," he said. The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the issue Wednesday.

Sues says the uptick in bias and hate crimes is very disturbing because our country was founded on the principal of religious freedom.

“We feel that smearing an entire group of Americans based on how they worship God is contrary to our shared American Values. American Muslims share the same American values and freedoms that we all cherish," he said.

Sues points out while the number of bias incidents nationwide increased, “New Jersey actually did come down a bit."

The number of New Jersey cases reported to CAIR in 2016 was 69 — and that went down to 57 last year.

He said bias incidents include “everything from graffiti painted on a mosque, threatening calls and emails received at a mosque, to discrimination on the job" and bullying in schools."

He stressed the stats are compiled solely from complaints that have been received and investigated by CAIR.

“Frankly this doesn’t mean the actual number of incidents out there in the real world (in New Jersey) have dropped. This is just what has been reported to us," Sues said.

Nevertheless, he pointed out New Jersey, compared to many other states, is considered quite progressive.

“I think there’s a large percentage of the New Jersey population is Muslim. They’re well educated and there are a lot of professionals. I think a lot of people have Muslim neighbors," Sues said.

Jay Rehman, a civil rights attorney with CAIR, said “the unconstitutional Muslim bans have succeeded in demonizing Muslims and in making society more hostile to American Muslim families and to their children.”

He noted there are about 250,000 Muslims in New Jersey, “representing about 3 percent of the population.”

Sues said the bottom line here is “Muslims are good Americans, Muslims are good neighbors, Muslims are good workers, they’re good co-workers, and they should be treated as such, and they should not be discriminated against because of their religion.”

The report finds reported anti-Muslim bias incidents increased nationwide from 2,213 in 2016 to 2,599 incidents in 2017, while hate crimes increased nationally from 260 in 2016 to 300 last year.

The ban that is currently in effect restricts travel from eight nations. Six of them are predominately Muslim, including Chad, Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Also included in the ban are North Korea and Venezuela.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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