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Harassment outside mosque cited in report

A case of harassment outside a small mosque in Carlton, a town in Orleans County, is one of nine incidents cited in a report released Wednesday about a rise in anti-mosque activities across the state.

"Religious Freedom Under Attack," the report by the New York Civil Liberties Union, includes the events outside the World Sufi Foundation mosque last August during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

A group of teenagers was accused of firing a shotgun, honking a car horn and yelling epithets as Muslims participated in a religious service.

The report's authors said Wednesday that the harassment was part of a disturbing trend of anti-Muslim sentiment across the state. Other incidents cited in the report occurred in Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Bethpage, Selden, Westbury, Hudson and Sidney.

The report pointed to the role politicians running for public office played in creating a climate ripe for discrimination and hostility toward Muslims.

Specifically, it mentioned the primary race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Both Rick Lazio and Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino condemned efforts to build an interfaith community center, which would include a mosque, two blocks of the former World Trade Center site. It also discussed U.S. Rep. Peter T. King's congressional hearings on allegations of Muslim radicalization.

"The rhetoric of the politicians is rhetoric that plays on the fears and uses the fear -- both legitimate and not -- that has been generated as a result of the 9/1 1 attacks," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Politicians have been pandering to our fears and casting aspersions upon an entire community."

The report warned of more possible backlash against Muslims in the days leading to the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- and during next year's presidential and congressional elections.

"Most of our fellow citizens in the United States know very little about Islam and Muslims," said Foroque Ahmad Khan, director of the Islamic Center of Long Island.

As a result, right-wing ideologues have been able to make a "cottage industry" out of portraying Muslims as terrorists and Islam as a threat to the American way, he said.

Khan encouraged Muslims across the state and country to initiate more activities with people of other faiths.

"Reach out and present yourself and explain yourself to communities," he said.