Religion-based hate crimes highest since 2001

by Matthew E. Berger
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS) Hate crime incidents targeting people based on their religion were at their highest frequency last year since 2001, according to a new report. The report, compiled by the Anti-Defamation League from FBI data, found 1,519 religious hate crimes in 2008, accounting for about 20 percent of all bias crimes. It was an increase from 2007, when 1,400 crimes of religious bias were reported.

The number of crimes targeting Jews or Jewish institutions also increased in 2008. There were 1,013 hate crimes against Jews last year, accounting for about two-thirds of all religious bias crimes. It was the largest number of crimes against Jews since 2001.

Overall, hate crimes rose slightly in 2008, with participating agencies reporting 7,783 bias crimes. Racial bias accounted for about half of all those reported, with attacks aimed at ethnicity and sexual orientation accounting for much of the balance.

Attacks against Muslims dropped slightly last year, to 105 reports. The numbers spiked in 2001, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. That year, 597 attacks against Muslims were reported, bringing the number of overall bias crimes up past 9,000 incidents.

ADL officials said an increase in agencies participating in the survey could account for part of the increase last year. But they said the spike remains a concern nonetheless.

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