Mesa officials are slated to hear a report today on hate crimes and backlash against Muslims.
"It’s a problem throughout the United States," said Deedra Abboud, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.
She is asking the city to consider setting up "hate-free zones.’’
Abboud is scheduled to talk to the city’s human relations advisory board at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers, 57 E. First St. The meeting is open to the public.
Of the estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Muslims in Maricopa County, a majority live in the East Valley, Abboud said.
In Maricopa County, the U.S. war in Iraq didn’t spur widespread hate crimes as some had feared, Abboud said. Still, she is pushing for cities to be on the lookout for crimes against Muslims.
"We’re trying to find out what kind of steps each city can take to prevent backlash, as well as help people living in fear," Abboud said.
She is urging cities to establish the zones as havens where Muslims and other groups being persecuted can get immediate help.
Tempe has designated all municipal buildings as havens, said Tempe spokeswoman Mary Fowler. City employees are instructed to call police if someone reports being harassed.
Mary Berumen, Mesa’s diversity officer, said her office hasn’t recorded any recent incidents of anti-Muslim crimes. "I’m more concerned that we do preventative measures," Berumen said.
A hate-crime in Mesa following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks grabbed international attention. Balbir Singh Sodhi, an immigrant from India and follower of the Sikh religion, was shot and killed Sept. 15 outside his Chevron convenience store.
Many have said he may have been targeted because he wore a turban, and might have been mistaken for a Muslim.